Monday, August 29, 2016

Dawkins' answer to someone who has experienced God: You hallucinated

Here. 

219 comments:

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Gyan said...

It is certainly possible that a person has hallucinated. I don't know what "experiencing God" might even mean but any mystical event can be or even likely to be hallucinatory.

Mass hallucinations are something else.

John Moore said...

I myself have met Jesus in person twice. Each time it was a profound experience that left me emotionally drained. Very meaningful and unforgettable. And yet I understand that actual Jesus does not exist. The two experiences I had were just in my mind. I was dreaming.

Steve Lovell said...

I do find this fascinating. While I can't convict John of any logical contradiction or even much in the way of incoherence, I can't help but think of the number of people who say things along the lines of "the reason I don't believe it is because I've never had any experience of God".

Indeed, I'm a Christian but will readily admit that one of my struggles is very much the apparent lack of any difference in my experience of the world compared with what I might expect on the assumption of atheism. But then when John has precisely the kinds of experience I seem to be "asking for", it turns out they don't don't help (or at least don't help him).

Cal Metzger said...

Lovell: "But then when John has precisely the kinds of experience I seem to be "asking for", it turns out they don't don't help (or at least don't help him)."

Even when I believed, I was always highly skeptical of those who said they had experienced Jesus, etc. I mean, I believed all the stories, etc., but there was no way that I could experience what some people said they had -- and these claims always seemed about as specific as a dream, changing and moving as they were told and retold. Hmm.

I wonder how many believers feel the same way. I mean, it's one thing to share a feeling, like we experience when we hear music or are guided through a story, but it's quite another to claim to have had verbal or observable interaction with someone that everyone else is desperately seeking themselves.

The dynamic always kind of seems like this: one who claims to have had a direct religious experience (Claimant) demands to be believed, and insinuates that those who are skeptical are arrogant and / or dismissive of the Claimant as a person. It's all sort of, "Look at that mean, mean skeptic, who is so arrogant about his own assessment of the world that he demeans a fellow human beings (mine!) experience!"

To me, it comes across in an opposite way -- the Claimant always seems to be a kind of narcissist, saying, "Ignore all you know and all that others experience, I alone am privy to a truth from which you have been (for proper reasons) excluded."

grodrigues said...

@Steve Lovell:

"Indeed, I'm a Christian but will readily admit that one of my struggles is very much the apparent lack of any difference in my experience of the world compared with what I might expect on the assumption of atheism."

I am also a Christian and I am *positively baffled* why anyone would want a Road-to-Damascus experience. Such experiences have consequences, and you can call me a coward, but they sure ain't pretty. You could object that you are not asking (if that is the right word) for something so dramatic, but the principle remains the same. To the one that much is given, much is asked in return, and I for one do not want to be judge as the indolent slave that did nothing with what he was given.

I should also add that these issues have been considered at length in the mystic literature, for just one example, by St. John of the Cross. Are you ready for the dark night of the soul? Such experiences of God would be called by St. John as mere prolegomena for the truer, final and more terrible purgations of the soul. Are you sure you know what you are asking?

Steve Lovell said...

Thanks Cal,

I completely understand your point. I often find myself thinking in much the same way. However my reasons for being a Christian are very much NOT rooted in my personal experience, so the lack of such an experiences isn't a conclusive reason to reject it.

Were such an experience to be vouchsafed to me, I hope it would function more as reassurance and a weak form of confirmation rather than becoming an essential foundation for my faith.

I recall a friend of mine finding the evidence for Christianity very persuasive, but he didn't want to commit himself in case it was all just find sounding words with no substance. He wanted to bump up against God in his experience, to find Christianity real "to him" and not just a theortical construction. When he was granted such an experience, I was pleased for him, though as you say it did very little for me! Indeed, a mutual aquiantance dismissed it as just so much emotional froth. I can understand that, but for the friend it was transformative and rightly so in my view. It wasn't the reason for the belief but gave him the reassurance he needed to trust what his intellect was telling him was true on other grounds. Perhaps some experiences of God can play a stronger role than the one I'm suggesting here, and I wouldn't want to rule that out, but I still think they'd be very likely to leave (sceptical) third parties "unmoved".

Ilíon said...

Steve Lovell: "Indeed, I'm a Christian but will readily admit that one of my struggles is very much the apparent lack of any difference in my experience of the world compared with what I might expect on the assumption of atheism."

Well, there is that one odd little fact that IF atheism were indeed the truth about the nature of reality, THEN there would be no *you* (nor me, nor anyone else) to be experiencing the world and claiming that said experiencing is indistinguishable from the (expected) experiencing of a Created world.

grodrigues: "I am also a Christian and I am *positively baffled* why anyone would want a Road-to-Damascus experience. Such experiences have consequences, and you can call me a coward, but they sure ain't pretty."

Exactly. To directly encounter God is a terrifying experience.

Steve Lovell said...

Thanks Grodrigues,

You're quite right. And I have those concerns too! As for the "dark night of the soul", I've been taking anti-depressants for about 11 years ... so I may know something about that already.

In the past I've worded "what I'm asking for" as follows: that life would go differently from how I might reasonably expect were either atheism true or God not part of my life. I wouldn't wish this to be interpreted as a request for "my life to go better" (I'm no believer in the "Properity Gospel"), but only as a request for it to go "differently".

However, since the above wording is is essentially a counterfactual, it brings with it inevitable difficulties in assessing whether I might already have got "what I'm asking for" ... and surely on the Christian view I have, but I just don't really know it.

I don't talk about these things often. Somehow in Christian circles one is made to feel ashamed of such doubts (something I think the Christian community really needs to address). Bringing these doubts out in the open feels like therapy!

Cal Metzger said...

Ilion: "Well, there is that one odd little fact that IF atheism were indeed the truth about the nature of reality, THEN there would be no *you* (nor me, nor anyone else) to be experiencing the world and claiming that said experiencing is indistinguishable from the (expected) experiencing of a Created world."

Sure it would.

Steve Lovell said...

Odd to find myself agreeing with both Cal and Ilion.

Compare theorising about the origin of the universe. Since I accept the big bang theory, I also believe this: if the Big Bang hadn't happened, the world would not exist.

However someone who tried to argue from that to the Big Bang on the basis that the world does exist and therefore the Big Bang must have happened would clearly be making a mistake.

So while I agree with Ilion's claim, it doesn't stand on its own. It stands or falls with the cosmological argument. I accept that argument, but it's always seemed to me to leave plenty of wiggle room for the person who wishes to deny the conclusion! And when one is faced with doubts, that's not going to help. Perhaps nothing does ... not even the imagined experiences: anything can be put down to coincidence or hallucination!

Sometimes it seems like it would be nice to get outside one's own head now and then. To get the "view from nowhere". Unfortunately it cannot be done. Not even by "Science" (contrary to the sort of over-confidence to which Dawkins is so prone).

grodrigues said...

@Steve Lovell:

"As for the "dark night of the soul", I've been taking anti-depressants for about 11 years ... so I may know something about that already."

Sorry to hear about your condition, but just as a (possible) clarification St. John is at pains to distinguish the dark night of the soul, its stages as well as the preambles, from depression or what classically was called melancholy. The dark knight is characterized by several features, but one of the most important is the explicit withdrawal of God such that the neophyte (as St. John calls it, or at least he does in my English translation -- grin) no longer experiences any spiritual sweetness. St. John compares it to a mother weaning out her child to make her grow, grow in purity and the love of God.

"However, since the above wording is is essentially a counterfactual, it brings with it inevitable difficulties in assessing whether I might already have got "what I'm asking for" ... and surely on the Christian view I have, but I just don't really know it."

Right. But I am with Ílion on this one and I think the term of comparison makes no sense.

My experience is different from yours, and I would guess, partly because of different cultures. In Catholic Europe it is just different. My own pavlovian, knee-jerk reaction (and thus, admittedly unfair) to someone claiming having had such an experience of God would be to ask what has he been smoking. But as you point out, such first-person private experiences can only convince the person who had them; on the other hand, and by the same token, they can not simply be dismissed, especially not by employing self-refuting skeptical principles.

Victor Reppert said...

It does seem to be what many atheists demand, yet it is dismissed automatically when claimed.

Cal Metzger said...

VR: "It does seem to be what many atheists demand, yet it is dismissed automatically when claimed."

I suppose it seems that way to you. But that's not the case.

What atheists ask for isn't yet another unverifiable, subjective, unreliable attestation of personal experience. What we ask for is something that is intersubjectively examinable.

It's the difference between saying "I feel happy, therefore god" and "There are lights in the sky that we can both observe, therefore we can investigate the source of these lights by comparing our observations and testing these observations."

The first is dismissed because it is meaningless. The second is investigated, because it is tractable.

It's hard for me to imagine how this could be a confounding distinction.

Victor Reppert said...

The question is whether what is required is conceptually possible in the case of God.
Science habitually analyzes the more tractable part of the issue first and postpones treatment of the less tractable. But some, on the basis of science, deny the existence of things when they are found to be less tractable.

I don't think anyone says "I feel happy, therefore God." If you deny that belief is reasonable because X is lacking, then it should be possible to show how we could have had it but don't. Thus, if you think that the evidence of evolution reveals a world without design, you need to tell me how the evidence, if it were different, could have revealed a world with design. Otherwise, your complaint isn't with the evidence, it is with the concept of what you are asking for evidence for.

That is why this particular atheist polemic has what I call a truth in packaging problem.

Cal Metzger said...

VR: "The question is whether what is required is conceptually possible in the case of God."

What's conceptually impossible about evidence?

VR: "Science habitually analyzes the more tractable part of the issue first and postpones treatment of the less tractable."

Because it's so productive to analyze intractable issues first?

VR: "I don't think anyone says "I feel happy, therefore God."

http://joshuamountain.org/postings/?p=7717

VR: "Thus, if you think that the evidence of evolution reveals a world without design, you need to tell me how the evidence, if it were different, could have revealed a world with design."

As I truly have no idea what is meant by a "world with design" I think I should leave that to those who are proponents of that idea. In other words, since evolutionary processes (genetic mutation and natural selection) already well explain biological diversity, complexity, and behavior, I don't see much point in imagining what else should exist for something (a world with design?) that doesn't seem coherent.

Ilíon said...

^ Or, to translate the above into English: Sure, we lose a tiny bit on each sale, but we'll make up for it in volume!

B. Prokop said...

"It does seem to be what many atheists demand, yet it is dismissed automatically when claimed."

Bingo! Ye olde heads I winneth, tales thou loseth.

A tired game, and a rigged one at that.

Victor Reppert said...

CM: In other words, since evolutionary processes (genetic mutation and natural selection) already well explain biological diversity, complexity, and behavior, I don't see much point in imagining what else should exist for something (a world with design?) that doesn't seem coherent.

VR: The first part needs some attention. If mutation and selection are sufficient explanations, what does that mean? Surely not that everything is explained, because it isn't. Otherwise we'd be done doing biology.

Or, what would it be like to discover that these mechanisms are inadequate?

Ilíon said...

Cal Metzger: "What atheists ask for isn't yet another unverifiable, subjective, unreliable attestation of personal experience. What we ask for is something that is intersubjectively examinable."

This isn't true, and we all know that it isn't true. For, if it were true, there would be no 'atheists', since *every* man is himself the proof that atheism is not the truth about the nature of reality (*).

What 'atheists' demand is that God *force* them to acknowledge his reality ... as though that would do them any more good than it does demons. Their "reasoning" runs thusly:
No matter what evidence is presented me, * I remain free to deny the reality of the transcendent, eternal, immaterial Creator of time-and-space;
* Ergo, there is no Creator.

(*) When one say 'A', then one must also say 'B' -- When one denies the reality of God, then one must also deny the reality of one's own self, for the second denial follows inescapably from the first denial. But, one is real, and one knows that one is real, and thus one know that both denial are false.

When prominent 'atheists' say things like, "Free will is an illusion", or "Consciousness is an illusion", or "The self is an illusion", or "Morality is an illusion", or "Personal responsibility is an illusion" or any number of other ludicrous assertions they make, this isn't merely one person asserting what he believes to be the truth about the nature of reality ... not least because not a single one of them actually believes the thing he has just asserted. When 'atheists' make these ludicrous assertions, what we see is one God-denier being slightly more honest than God-deniers in general are wont to be, and asserting a proposition (which he knows to be false even as he is asserting it) which inescapably follows from asserting that there is no Creator.

Ilíon said...

VR: "Or, what would it be like to discover that these mechanisms are inadequate?"

That has been known that all along; what happens is that they just double-down.

Legion of Logic said...

Arguing about the existence of God with those who ask for evidence is fruitless until the one asking for evidence explains what they mean by evidence, and can perhaps give an example of what they might consider to be evidence. Otherwise you get:

Theist: Here is X evidence from Y scientific field.
Atheist: That doesn't prove God exists.

Theist: Evidence and proof are not...never mind. Fine. Here is Z philosophical argument.
Atheist: That is not evidence. Unicorns.

Theist: Then what would count as evidence?
Atheist: You admit you have no evidence, then.

or

Atheist: A Super Duper Mega Ultra Miracle that directly contradicts every known law of science while also somehow proving itself to not be from an advanced alien source, obervable to all the world's scientists and repeating or sustaining as required in order for all scientific tests to be run in a satisfactory manner demonstrating all these truths to be accurate, so that it can be empirically demonstrated to be an act that cannot possibly be caused by any known or unknown characteristic of reality as described by physics and/or biology.

Or, as Dawkins and Myers stated

Atheist: There can be no evidence for God. Intellecture dead end.

Legion of Logic said...

Intellectual...not intellecture

Cal Metzger said...

Legion: "Arguing about the existence of God with those who ask for evidence is fruitless until the one asking for evidence explains what they mean by evidence, and can perhaps give an example of what they might consider to be evidence."

I have repeated myself here like an old record.

Evidence is what is examinable. It is objective, reliable, and verifiable. Evidence is ALL the relevant data concerning explanations for that data -- explanations predict, they have scope, the are consistent with what we already know, etc.

If you ask me for evidence for hats, I will describe them for you. I will provide references. I will invite you to investigate places where hats might be, and go on and on and on about how you can examine hats for yourself. You can do all this because hats are something for which we have evidence.

It boggles me that this should still be considered confusing here.

What I suspect is confusing for theists is that if they understand what I wrote above, they find that there isn't good evidence for their religious beliefs. This is something that apologists have led them to believe is not the case, and I suspect it's unsettling.

oozzielionel said...

"Hats" as a category does not exist except as an concept of language. Particular hats can be established to exist. However, the existence of a particular hat is more difficult to validate. I have a Cubs hat on my dresser. For me to provide evidence of that particular hat to you would have challenges. If I sent a photo, it may or may not be of my hat on my dresser. The photo is a representation of the hat but may not provide evidence that is "good enough" to qualify as proof. If accepted as valid, the photo would only provide indication of shape and color and only hints of the texture, weight, and other attributes of the hat. The photo would not provide much about the team it represents or the pride of the wearer during this particular season (but I digress). For me to prove the existence of my hat to you, I could arrange for transportation and escort you into the presence of my hat. You would likely be convinced. If then, I had the further duty to prove the existence of my hat to the entire world and generations through time, my task would be daunting. Perhaps I should just write a book about all those who have seen my hat?

Legion of Logic said...

"You can do all this because hats are something for which we have evidence."

Very good. Now then, demonstrate to me that love exists, and then tell me whether the evidence for hats and the evidence for love are the same. Are both tangible? Is one provable by hard evidence while the other is asserted as the best explanation for indirect evidence?

SteveK said...

Dawkins: I'm a doctor, trust my diagnosis. You hallucinated.

Cal Metzger said...

Legion: "Now then, demonstrate to me that love exists,..."

As I understand love it is an emotion. Are you saying that god is an emotion?

Legion: "... and then tell me whether the evidence for hats and the evidence for love are the same."

They aren't. Hats are real, tangible things, that are examinable. Love (as I understand the term) is an emotion.

Legion: "Are both tangible?"

No. One is tangible, and the other is an emotion. Emotions are experienced subjectively, and not intersubjectively. Hats are experienced objectively, and are intersubjective.

Legion: "Is one provable by hard evidence while the other is asserted as the best explanation for indirect evidence?

I don't know what you mean here, or really what you're getting at. It sounds like you agree that god isn't something real, like a hat.

SteveK said...

Emotions aren't something real like a hat, but they are real - not hallucinations.

Legion of Logic said...

The point is, if you would not expect the same standard of evidence between a hat and love (you can't hold love or wear love or see love to prove that love exists), then why would you hold a hat and God to the same standard? Astrophysics and chemistry are both sciences, yet no one expects astrophysicists to demonstrate their field the same way a chemist can. Different things are different, and no one I know of believes that God is a physical object in the universe.

Holding Christians to the standards of someone asserting the existence of hats doesn't work in any realistic fashion.

B. Prokop said...

Cal,

What is the evidence that Julius Caesar existed, and did the things attributed to him?

And you'd better not say the historical record, because the record from 1st Century Christianity is better attested to than any other event in history prior to the Modern Era.

Cal Metzger said...

Prokop: "What is the evidence that Julius Caesar existed, and did the things attributed to him? / And you'd better not say the historical record, because the record from 1st Century Christianity is better attested to than any other event in history prior to the Modern Era."

No.

I think that you fancy yourself somewhat of a historian, but this would be a train wreck of statements for someone who doesn't even claim to know much.

While I (of course) accept that we can't know that much about Caesar, and that there are certainly elements of legend and propaganda to his record, only a fool would assert what you have. Off the top of my head, for instance:

Caesar has named contemporaries (so many) who discuss him. Jesus has none. (Not. The. One.)
Caesar has contemporary artifacts attributed to him (coins, etc.) Jesus has none. (Not. The. One.)
Caesar WROTE ACCOUNTS OF HIS EXPLOITS and circulated them, and we have these written accounts from Caesar, and his contemporaries mentioning them. Jesus wrote nothing, and we have no accounts of his contemporaries attesting that he wrote anything. (Nothing)

Oh, here's another thought: no historian tries to persuade others that Caesar was indeed a god, with magical powers, etc. At best, historians try to explain what Caesar did, as humans do, and how that impacted other humans, in the same way that all humans interact with other humans.

Will any of these facts bother you, or other believers? No. Still, it has to be said. Because otherwise, someone else might someday consider your silliness somehow plausible.

So, on one hand, we have a guy (Caesar) who left behind an impressive (for the time) historical record, and on the other hand, we have a legend (Jesus) that left behind NO HISTORICAL ARTIFACTS AT ALL.*

You have to be a true historical dullard to believe what you so blithely assert. It insults me that you would try and fob it off, even here.

* Historical (as opposed to legendary) artifacts are (among others) named contemporaries, extant artifacts, and written documents (with a traceable lineage).

Caesar less attested to than Jesus? I thought it was an exaggeration comcerning apologist ignorance, but I see now that it does indeed exist in the wild.

Awesome.


steve said...

Atheists often say it would take a miracle for them to believe in God, but then turn around and say miracles are by definition incredible. Any miracle they witnessed would be a hallucination. There's no attempt to be consistent.

Steve Lovell said...

I think there's some truth on both sides of this discussion. I agree with Cal that we want evidence that is available "intersubjectively". But I don't think that that is all we want. Perhaps it should be all we want, but I don't think it is (at least not in my case).

For me, "inside the the faith", I still find it troubling that all these amazing things happen precisely to "other people". Everything is 2nd or 3rd hand and never in my immediate experience. Now that's not to say that I don't accept the testimonies. Though I certainly don't accept ALL of them, there are a good number that I see no sensible reason to deny and would certainly be cases which are "intersubjectively available". What it isn't is "repeatable" in the way that scientific experiments are. One can't right a paper saying how to get these results (and if we could that would probably lead us to think that they had happened by some undiscovered natural mechanism).

Plus, I think the other steve is right. Miracles are simply dismissed out of hand. They are simultaneously demanded and thought to be incredible in the nature of the case. These are classic case of what VR has termed "arguments that don't mix" (or more strictly "shouldn't mix").

Gyan said...

Cal Metzger was presented with evidences for miraculous cures at Lourdes-first-hand evidence given by a Noble-winning physician and summarized by a PhD (physics). He rejected the evidences on the basis of lack of qualifications of the said witnesses.

All his talk of "objective, reliable, and verifiable" evidence is a smoke-screen. If he were serious, he could just visit, for example, Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa to view the incorrupt body of St Xavier.

Cal Metzger said...

Gyan: "Cal Metzger was presented with evidences for miraculous cures at Lourdes-first-hand evidence given by a Noble-winning physician and summarized by a PhD (physics)."

What?

Only in apologist land is an article, that references an account that can't be checked, considered first-hand-evidence.

By first-hand-evidence, you actually mean 3rd hand hearsay.

Opposite world, anyone?

SteveK said...

What would you be checking for, Cal? Get specific about the kind of verifiable evidence you mentioned above.

Cal Metzger said...

SteveK: "What would you be checking for, Cal? Get specific about the kind of verifiable evidence you mentioned above."

If you don't understand the meaning of words, then you don't understand the meaning of words.

Also, I used examples above. I can't read for you, nor make you understand what words mean.

You have to do that all on your own.

SteveK said...

I can read, Cal. You refer to evidence that is tangible, examinable verifiable. I'm asking for you to get specific in the case of Lourdes since you mentioned that it needed to be checked.

If you could check it, what would you need to see that is tangible, examinable, verifiable, etc?

B. Prokop said...

Give it up, SteveK. Getting an atheist to define his terms is like trying to nail jello to the wall.

You'll be incessantly hammered for Evidence!, but you'll never get a coherent identification of what counts as such. And if by chance you do get a response, it'll be about as useful as a letter from Sr. Harold Bornstein (and will probably have taken the same amount of time and mental effort to put together).

Generally, what they demand is a gap, all the while claiming that an argument from a gap is illegitimate. See the games they are playing?

And Cal has the nerve, the utter, shameless gall, to claim he visits Dangerous Idea in order to point out inconsistency and hypocrisy. He need look no further than in the mirror.

Cal Metzger said...

"If you could check it, what would you need to see that is tangible, examinable, verifiable, etc?"

Well, I can't check an event that can't be checked, so there's that problem.

What would I require to believe that beseeching an invisible force reliably brought about changes that couldn't be achieved through medical treatment?

I would require evidence like we have for medical treatment similar to what we have for clinical testing -- double blind, high enough sample numbers to eliminate noise, a noticeable effect, etc. You know, the kind of things we use to distinguish between medicine that works, and quackery.

If Lourdes works, why don't all the believers in Lourdes form an agreement to pray for 10 children who have lost their limbs to landmines, and to not pray for another 10 children who have lost their limbs to land mines? What do you think the result of this would be?

Cal Metzger said...

Prokop: "You'll be incessantly hammered for Evidence!, but you'll never get a coherent identification of what counts as such."

What exactly is incoherent about my definition for evidence? Be specific.

Prokop: "And Cal has the nerve, the utter, shameless gall, to claim he visits Dangerous Idea in order to point out inconsistency and hypocrisy. He need look no further than in the mirror."

I keep on asking this question here, and I never seem to get a response: can you cite where I have been inconsistent and hypocritical?

By the way, your psychological projection is a tad high today, even for you.

SteveK said...

I would require evidence like we have for medical treatment similar to what we have for clinical testing -- double blind, high enough sample numbers to eliminate noise, a noticeable effect, etc. You know, the kind of things we use to distinguish between medicine that works, and quackery.

How do you fit evidence for a miracle into such a test procedure? That part is unclear to me. If the medicine worked in 99.9999% of all tests, but failed in 0.00001% of the tests would that 0.00001% be evidence of a miracle?

What I'm asking here is what would the data from this procedure look like for it to be evidence for a miracle?

B. Prokop said...

"If Lourdes works, why don't all the believers in Lourdes form an agreement to pray for 10 children who have lost their limbs to landmines, and to not pray for another 10 children who have lost their limbs to land mines?"

Hmm... Why don't they? Well, for starters, they just may have read the Scriptures... especially the part where they say, "Thou shalt not put the Lord thy God to the test!" Or even, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah."

Ahhh... but I was forgetting myself! You put no stock in the Scriptures. Well and good, I won't contest the point (for now). But your question specifically asked why all the believers don't do such - and they do take them seriously indeed.

So that's why.

SteveK said...

In the case of your prayer "study" why would the data be evidence for a miracle if the limbs changed?

Cal Metzger said...

Prokop: "Well, for starters, they just may have read the Scriptures... especially the part where they say, "Thou shalt not put the Lord thy God to the test!"

So, believe me, but don't verify? That's some god you guys have there.

And I thought you guys were always saying that faith is all about the evidence...

Cal Metzger said...

Btw, Bob, still waiting for you to back up your prior statement -- can you cite where I have been inconsistent and hypocritical?

B. Prokop said...

"And I thought you guys were always saying that faith is all about the evidence..."

I have never said that. I have steadfastly and consistently maintained that faith is how one acts after one has believed - not how one comes to said belief. See here for details.

B. Prokop said...

"can you cite where I have been inconsistent and hypocritical?"

Yes, I can.

Cal Metzger said...

Prokop: ""And Cal has the nerve, the utter, shameless gall, to claim he visits Dangerous Idea in order to point out inconsistency and hypocrisy. He need look no further than in the mirror."
Me: "can you cite where I have been inconsistent and hypocritical?"
Prokop: "Yes, I can."

Meanwhile...

All evidence to the contrary.

SteveK said...

Cal
What would the data from a carefully controlled double-blind study have to look like for it to be evidence for a miracle?

Cal Metzger said...

stevek: "What would the data from a carefully controlled double-blind study have to look like for it to be evidence for a miracle?"

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/807243_2

SteveK said...

I can't see the article. Can you summarize it here?

oozzielionel said...

FDA medical device approval process?

Cal Metzger said...

Stevek: "I can't see the article. Can you summarize it here?"

It's a link discussing fda approval for medical devices. If you want to get more granular than what I wrote earlier (Me: "I would require evidence like we have for medical treatment similar to what we have for clinical testing -- double blind, high enough sample numbers to eliminate noise, a noticeable effect, etc. You know, the kind of things we use to distinguish between medicine that works, and quackery.") my suggestion is you start with something like that.

SteveK said...

Cal,
You're talking about the process and I'm asking you about the results - which is the evidence. I'll accept your FDA approval process in the most optimized form you can think of if that helps. Now back my question...

"What would the data from a carefully controlled double-blind study have to look like for it to be evidence for a miracle?"

Cal Metzger said...

SteveK: "FDA approval process in the most optimized form you can think of if that helps. Now back my question...What would the data from a carefully controlled double-blind study have to look like for it to be evidence for a miracle?"

And now, back to my answer: "I would require evidence like we have for medical treatment similar to what we have for clinical testing -- double blind, high enough sample numbers to eliminate noise, a noticeable effect, etc. You know, the kind of things we use to distinguish between medicine that works, and quackery. / If Lourdes works, why don't all the believers in Lourdes form an agreement to pray for 10 children who have lost their limbs to landmines, and to not pray for another 10 children who have lost their limbs to land mines?"

If one or more children in the group being prayed for, with everything controlled, etc., grew their limb or limbs back (with the other group showing no effects, etc.), that would be awesome and persuasive evidence that miracles can occur as believers claim they can.

Why is this so difficult to understand?

SteveK said...

Thanks, Cal.

"Why is this so difficult to understand?"

The difficultly is understanding WHY the result (growing limbs) is evidence for a miracle rather than evidence for a previously unknown natural phenomenon.

Can you explain why?

oozzielionel said...

"If one or more children in the group being prayed for, with everything controlled, etc., grew their limb or limbs back (with the other group showing no effects, etc.), that would be awesome and persuasive evidence that miracles can occur as believers claim they can."

I am glad that prayer does not work like that. Can you imagine children on the playground manipulating their appendages?

Joe Hinman said...

If one or more children in the group being prayed for, with everything controlled, etc., grew their limb or limbs back (with the other group showing no effects, etc.), that would be awesome and persuasive evidence that miracles can occur as believers claim they can."

I am glad that prayer does not work like that. Can you imagine children on the playground manipulating their appendages?

but then it doesn't follow that if it doesn't work that way it doesn't work anyway

Joe Hinman said...

And now, back to my answer: "I would require evidence like we have for medical treatment similar to what we have for clinical testing -- double blind, high enough sample numbers to eliminate noise, a noticeable effect, etc. You know, the kind of things we use to distinguish between medicine that works, and quackery. / If Lourdes works, why don't all the believers in Lourdes form an agreement to pray for 10 children who have lost their limbs to landmines, and to not pray for another 10 children who have lost their limbs to land mines?"

you can't set up a double blind test for God unless God wants to submit to it. It's also futile to do a double blind for individual healings because God does not work automatically like a taking pill.

I talked to a Loures committee member he said that,he was a miracle investigator

Joe Hinman said...

It's a link discussing fda approval for medical devices. If you want to get more granular than what I wrote earlier (Me: "I would require evidence like we have for medical treatment similar to what we have for clinical testing -- double blind, high enough sample numbers to eliminate noise, a noticeable effect, etc. You know, the kind of things we use to distinguish between medicine that works, and quackery.") my suggestion is you start with something like that.

that's the illusion of technique. Double blind is the way to go in filed trials for drugs so it must be the way to study everything medical but no it wont do any good studying miracles because God is not a drug, God is not compelled to work by the laws of physics,

Cal Metzger said...

SteveK: "The difficultly is understanding WHY the result (growing limbs) is evidence for a miracle rather than evidence for a previously unknown natural phenomenon. / Can you explain why?"

I said why -- because the experiment would be controlled in such a way that prayer would be meaningfully distinguished as the variable in the trial.

Could there be another, natural explanation for one of the children in the prayer group growing a limb? Sure. But you asked what would count as evidence, and evidence is about probabilities -- and the probability would, given the rigor of the experiment, increase in something like I'm describing, for something like what most people believe when they talk about prayers, and miracles.

Honestly, I don't have time to be your teacher. Please take a basic science course or something (with some basic lab work).

Cal Metzger said...

Hinman: "God is not a drug, God is not compelled to work by the laws of physics."

Then why bother bringing up supposed miracles at all?

SteveK said...

Cal,
"Please take a basic science course or something"

Funny, they don't teach about miracles in science class.

But you asked what would count as evidence, and evidence is about probabilities -- and the probability would, given the rigor of the experiment,

Even funnier. You think science experiments can tell you something about miracles (how to recognize them by probabilities) but if that were true then science would teach this in the classroom. Should we start doing this?

SteveK said...

Then why bother bringing up supposed miracles at all?

Why think evidence for God can be found among the probabilities when science doesn't teach this? Why tell people to take a science class to learn how read "tea leaves"?

Cal Metzger said...

@SteveK, you seem confused.

SteveK said...

I'm not confused Cal. You think science experiments carefully controlled can tell you something about miracles by looking at probabilities. You think science teaches this method but that subject matter cannot be found in any science classroom. Tell me where I've gone wrong.

Steve Lovell said...

I think this is a genuinely difficult question. Cal's point is that the efficacy of prayer ought to be statistically significant and this should be detectable via double-blind experiments. For the reasons others have given, I don't know what I think about that. However, while I can't point you to articles, I believe several such experiments have been carried out, with varying results. I dare say a well worded Google search will turn up some interesting reading.

SteveK's point is that even if prayer is effective it doesn't follow that miracles are happening. Cal presumably holds that in the absence of another candidate for a mechanism to explain such a correlation, it might be reasonable to (a) attribute this to divine agency. At the very least Cal is saying that (b) in the absence of such a correlation, one shouldn't believe in the efficacy of prayer. (b) seems a reasonable position to take, and under certain conditions perhaps (a) too, but without those additional conditions anyone looking to attribute the correlation to divine agency would undoubtedly be accused of "god of the gaps" thinking and opponents would suggest possible sources of explanation in "parapychology" or elsewhere.

B. Prokop said...

The very idea of a "prayer experiment" sickens me. It is nothing less than blasphemy. What?! You think the Lord God is some kind of ATM machine? Put in your PIN and take out the cash?

That's not how prayer "works". Prayer is a conversation with God. You look at Him, and He looks at you.

Steve Lovell said...

Bob, I agree.

My main reason for not thinking that this completely vitiates Cal's point is that the people who are praying are probably (definitely?) not the same people as those running the experiment, and they may not even know they are part of an experiment and might be praying in an pure a fashion as one could possibly hope for.

B. Prokop said...

Still not buying it, Steve. Such a setup looks like trying to "pull a fast one" on God. ("Pay no attention to that man with the clipboard, Lord. You just keep doing what You're supposed to be doing!")

Really?

Ilíon said...

SteveK: "
I'm not confused Cal. You think science experiments carefully controlled can tell you something about miracles by looking at probabilities. You think science teaches this method ...
"

Neither science (much less 'Science!') nor probability studies can tell you what a particular individual human being will choose to do. How much less can these things tell you about what God will choose to do?

Science isn't set up to deal with choices or agency (and 'Science!' denies that such things exist), but only with deterministic mechanism. Just as with human beings, whatever God does or does not is a choice, not the out-working of a deterministic mechanism.

Probability calculations require large sample sizes ... and don't (and can't) tell you anything about any single sample. There is one God; hardly a large sample size.

Ilíon said...

"My main reason for not thinking that this completely vitiates Cal's point is that the people who are praying are probably (definitely?) not the same people as those running the experiment, and they may not even know they are part of an experiment and might be praying in an pure a fashion as one could possibly hope for."

And the persons in the supposed control group may be being prayed for by persons unknown to the supposed researchers.

Agency just can't be contained by science ... which is why 'Science!' must deny its very existence.

grodrigues said...

@Steve Lovell:

"I think this is a genuinely difficult question."

No it's not. It is actually pretty simple, and Cal does not have the least clue of what he is talking about.

Quote 1:

"If one or more children in the group being prayed for, with everything controlled, etc., grew their limb or limbs back (with the other group showing no effects, etc.), that would be awesome and persuasive evidence that miracles can occur as believers claim they can."

Believers do claim that miracles occur, but they do not claim that they occur as Cal imagines they should. In particular:

Quote 2:

"I would require evidence like we have for medical treatment similar to what we have for clinical testing -- double blind, high enough sample numbers to eliminate noise, a noticeable effect, etc. You know, the kind of things we use to distinguish between medicine that works, and quackery. / If Lourdes works, why don't all the believers in Lourdes form an agreement to pray for 10 children who have lost their limbs to landmines, and to not pray for another 10 children who have lost their limbs to land mines?"

None of these requirements can be met in the case of miracles. There is no control of the major variable, God. The idea that you could get God to submit to a test is blasphemous, let alone feasible or capable of meeting scientific strictures. No serious Christian regards prayer as the sort of thing whose "efficacy" can be measured off by tabulating purported miracles. There is no way to control the prayers, for all Saints are enjoined to pray, not only for their loved ones, but for the entire World; right at this moment around the world, countless people are effectively praying for people they never met, including non-Christians, so there is absolutely no control over whom is being prayed for. There will never "be high enough sample numbers to eliminate noise" since what Cal is asking about in evaluating "efficacy of prayer" is a "noticeable effect", or a miracle ("grew their limb or limbs back"), and by the nature of miracles there will never be enough of them to get out of the statistical noise range.

And I could continue, but this is more than enough.

Cal Metzger said...

SteveK: "I'm not confused Cal. You think science experiments carefully controlled can tell you something about miracles by looking at probabilities."

You asked me how it might work. I offered how it might work. This is not a complicated concept.

SteveK: "You think science teaches this method..."

What method? Experiment, control, empiricism, elimination of biases, etc.? Do you mean the processes often called the scientific method? Or do you think that I'm suggesting that I think science validates prayer? I seriously don't know what you're trying to say.

SteveK: "... but that subject matter..."

What subject matter? Do you mean miracles? If so, yup -- that's because miracles are usually retroactive, anecdotal claims. I have suggested a way that the miraculous could rise to the level of knowledge, of real events, with real explanations. If you mean something else by "subject matter," then, well, I have no idea what you're talking about. This doesn't seem like a rare occurrence with you.

SteveK: "...cannot be found in any science classroom. Tell me where I've gone wrong."

I'm not sure, because it's not clear to me what you're trying to say. If you think that I don't recognize the difficulties with miracle claims, then I think you don't understand my position. It seems to be clear to others here (Steve Lovell understands me perfectly well, it seems), so I suggest that you try a little harder to clear up what appears to be your confusion.

Cal Metzger said...

Me: "I don't believe in prayer."
This thread: "Why not?!"
Me: "Don't work."

This thread: "True, but hear us out..."

Like I said earlier, that's some god you guys got there.

Ilíon said...

^ Snarks the fool who claims that he doesn't even exist.

Legion of Logic said...


Me: "I don't believe in prayer."
This thread: "Why not?!"
Me: "Don't work."

Which prayers should work? What if two people pray for mutually exclusive things?

Or maybe there's no reason to expect prayer to function like some sort of natural energy source, and the vast majority of Christians understand this to be true. If even I'm smart enough to know that answering every prayer would lead to disaster, then I'm pretty sure God's got that figured out as well.

Cal Metzger said...

Legion: "Which prayers should work? What if two people pray for mutually exclusive things?"

These are great questions. I agree.

Legion: "Or maybe there's no reason to expect prayer to function like some sort of natural energy source, and the vast majority of Christians understand this to be true."

I agree again. And I think the vast majority of Christians understand this -- that they pray, but it's more like a meditation inside a personal diary / audience with the silent, immobile king. I'm not against prayer, mind you, as I think it does no harm practiced in this way. It's when it gets mislabeled as a palliative or cure or cause that I find reasons to object.

Legion: "If even I'm smart enough to know that answering every prayer would lead to disaster, then I'm pretty sure God's got that figured out as well."

And I gather that this is how most people, from all different religions, feel about the invisible forces they've come to accept without much introspection or testing.

grodrigues said...

So Cal asks for certain things that presumably would convince him that God exists; when people respond that these do not work, instead of answering the arguments, he blathers "Like I said earlier, that's some god you guys got there". What an intellectual fraud.

Cal Metzger said...

Grod: "So Cal asks for certain things that presumably would convince him that God exists..."

No, not really. Try and read more carefully, or not misrepresent when you type.

Grod: "when people respond that these do not work, instead of answering the arguments, he blathers "Like I said earlier, that's some god you guys got there". "

Not really.

It's like when someone asks me what it would take to convince me that their race car can go really fast, and I say, "Well, I suppose it would need to move over the track at speeds in excess of 180 mph," and that someone then tells me that instead of going over 180 mph over the track their race car actually doesn't move at all.

After that is revealed, I wouldn't say that someone has answered my arguments (as if my suggesting a reasonable standard is an "argument"), I'd just say that that someone has observed that something doesn't fit into the criterion into which they had originally categorized it.

"Well, it's not much of a race car, now, is it?" is a conclusion that I think we should all be able to reach before moving on to the next topic. If you feel the urge to kick something in frustration over your race car's performance, it doesn't surprise me that you'd think I am the one irking you. That's how many of us are built, I suppose.





Ilíon said...

"What an intellectual fraud."

How not? God-denial logically commits him to denying that he himself exists. There are only two options to explain why he continues in God-denial:
1) he is insane (on a par with man who claims to be a boiled egg);
2) he is intellectually dishonest;
or, three, if we include:
1a) he is (not insane, but is rather) stupid beyond belief; but, since my belief others' stupidity does not extent so far, I can't credit this option.

The other possible explanation for why a person asserts what-is-false, simple and honest ignorance, doesn't apply in this case, as these things have been carefully explained to Cal Metzger time and time again. If he is ignorant on these matters, it is a willful ignorance, which takes us back to intellectual dishonesty.

grodrigues said...

@Kal Motzger:

"Grod: "So Cal asks for certain things that presumably would convince him that God exists..."

No, not really. Try and read more carefully, or not misrepresent when you type."

In response to SteveK's question "What would the data from a carefully controlled double-blind study have to look like for it to be evidence for a miracle?" (which miracles are in turn, evidence that God exists), in August 31, 2016 1:30 PM you lay out what you require:

'And now, back to my answer: "I would require evidence like we have for medical treatment similar to what we have for clinical testing -- double blind, high enough sample numbers to eliminate noise, a noticeable effect, etc. You know, the kind of things we use to distinguish between medicine that works, and quackery. / If Lourdes works, why don't all the believers in Lourdes form an agreement to pray for 10 children who have lost their limbs to landmines, and to not pray for another 10 children who have lost their limbs to land mines?"

If one or more children in the group being prayed for, with everything controlled, etc., grew their limb or limbs back (with the other group showing no effects, etc.), that would be awesome and persuasive evidence that miracles can occur as believers claim they can.'

So yes, I have read perfectly well. And then I showed why this does not work. It is simply a falsehood of your invention that I have misrepresented you.

"After that is revealed, I wouldn't say that someone has answered my arguments (as if my suggesting a reasonable standard is an "argument"), I'd just say that that someone has observed that something doesn't fit into the criterion into which they had originally categorized it."

"Reasonable standards" is precisely what is in dispute, so your ignorant excuses, while duly noted, are completely irrelevant. As I said: what an intellectual fraud.

SteveK said...

Cal,
What method? Experiment, control, empiricism, elimination of biases, etc.? Do you mean the processes often called the scientific method? Or do you think that I'm suggesting that I think science validates prayer? I seriously don't know what you're trying to say.

I'm referring to the method of recognizing evidence for miracles vs. evidence for natural phenomenon via carefully controlled double-blind studies. Science doesn't teach any of its students how pour over the data so they can do that. You told me to take a basic science course so that I can learn how to do that, but those classes don't exist. Let me quote you in full.

-----
Cal said:
Could there be another, natural explanation for one of the children in the prayer group growing a limb? Sure. But you asked what would count as evidence, and evidence is about probabilities -- and the probability would, given the rigor of the experiment, increase in something like I'm describing, for something like what most people believe when they talk about prayers, and miracles.

Honestly, I don't have time to be your teacher. Please take a basic science course or something (with some basic lab work).

-------

I have suggested a way that the miraculous could rise to the level of knowledge, of real events, with real explanations.

You've suggested a way that isn't taught in any science department on any university campus that I know of. You are doing philosophy, Cal, and you're doing it poorly.

Cal Metzger said...

Grod: "So yes, I have read perfectly well."

No, you said "So Cal asks for certain things that presumably would convince him that God exists..."

I didn't ask for them -- SteveK asked for them, and I responded what I thought the standard should be. This is basic stuff.

Grod: ""Reasonable standards" is precisely what is in dispute..."

No, it's really not. Since the question was asked of me, and I attest to them (on behalf of me), there is no dispute about what I think the standards are. When answering a question about what one thinks, the answers are not disputable. Again, this is basic stuff.

What's so predictable about your comments here (and predictable is boring) is that they consistently try to fashion an objection around the language lying at the fringes of a topic. If I were you, I'd look over your past comments, and see if you notice how this is the role you've assigned yourself. In other words, instead of cutting to the heart of the matter (which is really the role of an intellectual, now, isn't it?), your comments just seem to be an exercise in finding flowery language that picks a fight base on trivialities. If I were you, I'd wonder why this would be the case -- as it's obvious from your writing style that you crave recognition as an intellectual, but your words so often fail to serve that purpose.

Ilíon said...

This thread is a perfect illustration is something I say from time to time -- 'atheists' and 'agnostics' don't even deserve a seat at "the kid's table", they belong on the floor with the beasts.

To put that in a less bumper-sticker form --

So long as a person claims that God is not, or claims to be unable to know that God is, then he has no more to say than any brute beast, and it is as much as waste of time to try to discuss "higher-level" questions with him as it is with a dog. Until a person acknowledges the basic reality that God is, then everything he says touching on questions relating to God will be a distraction, an invitation to charge into a rabbit-hole.

God-denial *is* intellectual dishonesty; it is not rooted in stupidity and it is not rooted in ignorance, it is rooted in the willful refusal to acknowledge the truth -- shoot! even when an 'atheist' does acknowledge (as many prominent ones do) the truth that denial of the reality of the Creator-God logically entails denial of the reality of one's own self, they won't acknowledge that the absurdity of the second denial logically entails that the first denial is also absurd, and thus false. Instead, they double-down and assert that, "Yeppers! I don't exist."

This is not stupidity, and it is not simple (honest) ignorance, it is intellectual dishonesty.

SteveK said...

Cal,
Since the question was asked of me, and I attest to them (on behalf of me), there is no dispute about what I think the standards are. When answering a question about what one thinks, the answers are not disputable. Again, this is basic stuff.

Your standards are not taught in ANY science classroom. I don't expect them to be, but YOU do. That's one of the problems here. When will you learn? Come join us at the adult table.

Steve Lovell said...

Cal,

I'd just like to say I don't agree with the way that Ilion and others are calling you intellectually dishonest here. I don't see evidence for that, at least not here in this thread ;-P.

A lot depends on the dialectical situation and this has become a messy thread where that is difficult to ascertain. I think it would be reasonable for you at least to assume that the burden of proof in this discussion is on the side of those who believe in answered intercessory prayer. That burden certainly hasn't been discharged here (not that anyone has really tried). There are two ways one could attempt to discharge the burden. One would be (1) to carry out a statistical study as you envisage. The other would be (2) to find one or more particular cases which we (somehow) have good reasons to consider as positive cases.

Lots more to say, but I'm meant to be working!

Cal Metzger said...

Thanks, Steve. I appreciate your comment, and your previous ones as well.

But yes, I don't really respond to comments that I think are irrelevant or immaterial or diversionary to the discussion. As you point out, there's only so much time.

Ilíon said...

I don't call people intellectually dishonest; I show that they are.

grodrigues said...

@Steve Lovell:

"I'd just like to say I don't agree with the way that Ilion and others are calling you intellectually dishonest here. I don't see evidence for that, at least not here in this thread"

If that is aimed at me, I did not say Cal was being intellectually dishonest but an "intellectual fraud". Now, I grant you that "intellectual fraud" could very plausibly be read as being "intellectually dishonest" but that is not what I meant, or intended at any rate. What I meant is that the argumentation of Mr. Metzger is unbelievably bad to the point of being intellectually bankrupt. To vary the metaphor, like counterfeit money being passed around as the genuine article, a fraud. And I did not simply claimed it, I *argued* it.

SteveK said...

There are two ways one could attempt to discharge the burden. One would be (1) to carry out a statistical study as you envisage. The other would be (2) to find one or more particular cases which we (somehow) have good reasons to consider as positive cases.

Well, (1) has already been exposed to be a non-scientific process of finding God in the statistics. If p is less than some number then we can justifiably conclude that God did it. Science! (not!!)

Cal has been given examples of (2), with the good reasons that go with the examples, but he always insists that (1) is the only way to find those good reasons.

B. Prokop said...

"everything [the God denier] says touching on questions relating to God will be a distraction, an invitation to charge into a rabbit-hole"

How true! And this (along with literally hundreds of others) "conversation"** proves that point beyond dispute.

For once, just once, I'd love to see an atheist honestly ask legitimate questions about Christianity without a hidden (or not so hidden) agenda of attacking it. Cal self-righteously claims he's never been inconsistent, all the while squirming like an eel in an attempt to avoid admitting that nothing would change his set-in-concrete mind. (This is, by the way, why I say these internet arguments are ultimately futile. It requires a change of heart, not of the mind, to free a person from the prison of unbelief.)

** They're not really conversations, which would imply people talking to each other, rather than at them.

Victor Reppert said...

I think you have to distinguish two discussions when it comes to the prayer argument. One is the positive argument that prayer works, of such a strength as to at least partially persuade an atheist like Cal to change his mind. In that case, the burden of proof is really on the theist.

But suppose what we are doing is presenting the negative argument: we are trying to establish the idea that nothing fails like prayer. It is the argument I used to get hit with on Debunking Christianity regardless of whether it was the least bit relevant to the point I was discussing. For that argument to work, we need to show that Christians ought to expect verifiable double-blind results from prayer. And that part is far less convincing.

This has to do with the fact that in Christianity one central role of prayer is that it is aimed at correcting ourselves, if anything, more than correcting the world.

B. Prokop said...

Good point, Victor. After all, one of the key clauses in The Lord's Prayer is "Thy will be done on Earth..." Not my will, not my wish list, not what I think needs to be done to make the world a better place, but Thy will.

And for Catholics, when we pray the "Hail Mary", we say "Pray for us, now and at the hour of our death." See? We're not asking for the inevitable to be somehow bypassed. We're asking to be led through it.

So if I pray when I have a fatal disease, and it kills me anyway, My prayer was nevertheless answered, since I know I am not going through this alone.

Seven years ago, when my wife was dying of pancreatic cancer, I prayed day and night... not that she would live, not even that her death would be unaccompanied by suffering... I prayed that her suffering would be given to me rather than to her. That whatever she might have to bear be transferred to my body. My prayer was answered, and in full. Diane died peacefully in her sleep, and my body has been racked with pain ever since. I rejoice in it, because I prayed that it would be so.

(I suggest that anyone reading this pick up just about anything by Charles Williams, but especially his novel Descent into Hell to learn more about bearing one another's burdens.) You want to know whether prayer works? This does.

Steve Lovell said...

Not got long, must dash out to chess club in a few minutes ...

@grodrigues, I suppose it was aimed at you in a way, though admittedly you didn't use those words.

@everyone ...

I really don't see the value in ad hominem attacks. I think the principle of charity is a massive thing in hermeneutics and lots of people on both sides of discussions here could do to apply it more. No doubt that includes me.

Not only will you find it helps you to better understand your interlocuters but it will also help you honour St Peter's instruction to give our reasons with "gentleness and respect". Yes, we're also told to demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, but the targets there are precisely arguments and ideas and not people.

Like Bob I sometimes get despirited about the state of online discussion, which is why I don't spend as much time on here as some. But if people could manage to discuss openly, honestly and courteously then I think there is much that we can learn from each other. I know I've certainly gained from a decent number of the discussions here at DI over the years.

More when time allows.

Cal Metzger said...

Prokop: "Cal self-righteously claims he's never been inconsistent..."

Lie much?

SteveK said...

For that argument to work, we need to show that Christians ought to expect verifiable double-blind results from prayer.

We expect them to occur according to the will of God. You cannot leave that part out, but they insist that we do, otherwise the test cannot be controlled. Exactly, the test cannot be controlled. Under strictly controlled conditions, God does what God wants.

B. Prokop said...

Me: "Cal self-righteously claims he's never been inconsistent..."

Cal: "Lie much?

Cal (earlier): "Can you cite where I have been inconsistent?"

I'd say that's a claim to never having been inconsistent. So where's the lie?

So to answer your question: "No, I don't."

grodrigues said...

@Steve Lovell:

"I really don't see the value in ad hominem attacks. I think the principle of charity is a massive thing in hermeneutics and lots of people on both sides of discussions here could do to apply it more. No doubt that includes me."

The value of imprecations (*not* "ad hominem attacks"; they are not attacks on the character but on the intellectual conduct that, I have to stress, are not pulled out of thin air, but *fundamented and argued*) is to force people to come up with something better. Fierce polemics with very sharp invective has a very long and noble tradition, even in Christian apologetics. I do not feel special compunction of calling out Mr. Metzger, furthermore when for example, he views all believers as delusional and thus irrational.

Cal Metzger said...

Me: "Can you cite where I have been inconsistent?"
Prokop: "I'd say that's a claim to never having been inconsistent. So where's the lie?"

The part where you take my request to cite where you thought I was being inconsistent and tried to fob off that request instead as "Cal self-righteously claims he's never been inconsistent..."

If I'm asking a question, that means I don't know what your answer will be. And if I'm being inconsistent, I like to be shown where, and how. That way, I might have the opportunity to fix things in the future. That is, after all, a product of discussion.

it's just bizarro world in this thread.

So, can you cite where it is you think I'm being inconsistent, or was that a meaningless claim as well?










B. Prokop said...

"If I'm asking a question, that means I don't know what your answer will be.

Utter and complete BS. I can smell a rhetorical question from a mile away, and yours reeks of two day old fish.

SteveK said...

Cal: "If I'm asking a question, that means I don't know what your answer will be"

He had the answer before he asked the question, "lie much?"
Q: So where's the lie?"
A: The part where you take my request to cite where you thought I was being inconsistent and tried to fob off that request instead as "Cal self-righteously claims he's never been inconsistent..."

Cal Metzger said...

Prokop: "Utter and complete BS. I can smell a rhetorical question from a mile away, and yours reeks of two day old fish."

W. T. F.

So I ask a question, which admittedly challenges you to actually back up what you asserted, and instead of a) providing what you said you could or apologizing for having misrepresented me, you b) accuse me of BS because you apparently can't back up your assertion?

That's some seriously ugly behavior there. You must be so proud.

Steve Lovell said...

The browser on my mobile just lost a comment of mine. I'll try again tomorrow.

Victor Reppert said...

Why don't you try taking Cal seriously on this and see where it goes? It's worth a try.

David Brightly said...

Can't we say something like this? The model for prayerful communication with God is a conversation between two persons, not some causal physical process. We shouldn't expect it to manifest statistical regularities, especially as we don't know God's mind. Not too far off the defence against the argument from evil.

B. Prokop said...

I just came across this on another site. Perfect for this discussion (all the rest is quotation):

Dan Rather once interviewed Mother Theresa. It was always a delight to watch cynical journalists interview Mother Theresa, because she would invariably make them look like fools. He asked Mother Theresa about prayer:

"What do you say to God when you pray," he inquired.
"Nothing," replied Mother Theresa. "I just listen."
"What does God say to you?" he responded, rather derisively.
"Nothing," replied Mother Theresa. "He just listens."

That's what prayer ... can become. We are still, silent, and we listen to God listening to us. And the more time we spend ... in silence, the more we will begin to hear God listen, the more aware we will become of His presence in our lives.

Joe Hinman said...

Hinman: "God is not a drug, God is not compelled to work by the laws of physics."

Then why bother bringing up supposed miracles at all?


they happen,stop equating laws of physics with all of reality,trey have to be violated or nothing could come to be. the appearance of space/time amide timeless states violates the laws o physics

Joe Hinman said...

I said why -- because the experiment would be controlled in such a way that prayer would be meaningfully distinguished as the variable in the trial.

how are you going to force God into it?

Joe Hinman said...

So I ask a question, which admittedly challenges you to actually back up what you asserted, and instead of a) providing what you said you could or apologizing for having misrepresented me, you b) accuse me of BS because you apparently can't back up your assertion?

Cal you beaten by theevidence, you don;tahve the sense to accept it,

200 studies peer reviewed in academicians showing religious experience is good for you and transforms your life, That supporter argument epistemic judgement so belief is warranted,

a team of medical researchers show Lourdes miracles are inexplicable and proved so by scientkific means, That warrants belief in miracles,So with thy Casdrouph miracles,

Gyan said...

Cal Metzger,
Lourdes does not "work" by prayer. So, leave those stock arguments about growing limbs for mine-blown children aside. First you need to learn what actually occurs there.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Danila Castelli : 69th cure of Lourdes recognized as miraculous by a Bishop

Danila CastelliDanila Castelli, born on 16 january 1946, wife and family mother, has lived a more or less normal life until the age of 34 when she started having spontaneous and severe blood pressure hypertensive crisis. In 1982 some Rx and ultrasound tests detect a right para-uterine mass and a fibromatous uterus. Danila is operated for hysterectomy and annexectomy. In november 1982 she undergoes partial pancreatectomy. A scintigraphy the following year proves the existence of «pheochromocytoma » (a tumor that secretes high amounts of catecholamines) in the rectal, bladder and vaginal region. More surgical interventions follow in the attempt to stop the triggers to the crisis until 1988 but with no bettering at all. In may 1989, during a pilgrimage to Lourdes, Danila gets out of the Baths where she had been immerged and she feels an extraordinary feeling of wellbeing. Shortly after she reported to the Lourdes Office of Medical Observations (Bureau des Constatations Médicales de Lourdes) her instantaneous alleged cure. After five meetings (1989, 1992, 1994, 1997 and 2010) the Bureau certified the cure with an unanimous vote : « Mrs Castelli was cured, in a complete and lasting way, from the date of her pilgrimage to Lourdes -- 21 years ago -- of the syndrome she had suffered and with no relation with the treatments and the surgeries she received ». Danila Castelli has since gone back to an absolute normal life. The CMIL (Lourdes International Medical Committee) in it's annual meeting of 19 november 2011 in Paris has certified that the cure « remains unexplained according to current scientific knowledge ». On June 20th 2013 Monsignor Giovanni Giudici, Bishop of Pavia, the diocesis where Danila Castelli lives, has declared the « prodigious-miraculous » character and the value of « sign » of this cure. It is the 69th cure of Lourdes recognized as miraculous by a Bishop.

Steve Lovell said...

A little more on the principle of charity (then work, and perhaps something more substantive during my lunch break) ...

I think all of us commenting here at DI would pride ourselves on knowing the common fallacies in logic and reasoning. One of the canonical fallacies is that of the "straw man". The principle of charity has a very close relationship with that fallacy, being the surest way to avoid committing it.

Unless we can overcome the strongest version of our opponents arguments we cannot really overcome them at all. And to be sure we're dealing with the strongest version we have to interpret our interlocutor's comments in charitable ways and sometimes even to fill in gaps in their arguments on their behalf. Unless you're doing these things I think you're failing to follow the "Socratic Maxim" of following the argument where it leads and are likely to be guilty of the "straw man" fallacy.

This is incumbent on both sides of any discussion. It will be clear where I think the main failings have been in this thread, and we all fail in this regard now and then, but it doesn't mean we shouldn't strive to do better.

He who has ears, let him hear.

Steve Lovell said...

@Ilion,

I've just been re-reading some of this thread to make sure I wasn't missing anything. You're claiming to have shown that Cal is being intellectually dishonest. Perhaps this was in another thread?

The most I can see here is the assertion of a conditional "If God doesn't exist, then human persons don't exist". Now I find this conditional plausible, but why should Cal? It's off topic, so I'm quite content for you not to answer that here.

@grodrigues,

I think you've done the most here to show the problems with the statistical approach to prayer (beyond that of such testing being blasphemous). You are pointing out the difficulty in setting up a test such that the results would be detectable. They key part of what you've said seems to me this: There will never "be high enough sample numbers to eliminate noise" since what Cal is asking about in evaluating "efficacy of prayer" is a "noticeable effect", or a miracle ("grew their limb or limbs back"), and by the nature of miracles there will never be enough of them to get out of the statistical noise range.

And here I think you're probably right. However it's actually an empirical question what the level of background noise is and whether we can ever escape that into statistical significance. Perhaps with a very long trial we could (in theory), but I guess if the results came back negative this line of thinking might be adequate to defend our belief in the efficacy of prayer nonetheless. Meanwhile our opponents will simply claim that we've made this one of our beliefs unfalsifiable and rendered it meaningless.

@Bob (and perhaps others),

I quite agree with you that the more important part of prayer are the facets you mention, listening, meditation, and simply spending time with God. But to emphasise these to the exclusion of intercessory prayer would not only misrepresent the New Testament massively (we are repeatedly told to "ask" and promised that we'll "receive") but also play right into Cal's hands. I don't think you really mean to say this, but some of your comments above give the impression that orthodoxy doesn't require a commitment to God answering intercessory prayer (at least sometimes).

Lunch break's over, so that'll have to do for now.

Cal Metzger said...

@Stave, It's a pleasure reading your comments. Thanks for restoring my faith in some religious believers.

Ilíon said...

David Brightly: "Can't we say something like this? The model for prayerful communication with God is a conversation between two persons, not some causal physical process."

Well, that is what we have been saying for at least 3000 years.

David Brightly: "We shouldn't expect it to manifest statistical regularities, especially as we don't know God's mind."

Not quite. It's more that we "shouldn't expect [prayer] to manifest statistical regularities" precisely because persons, whether human or divine, *are* persons, *are* agents, and are not governed by deterministic mechanisms which can be modeled for the individual person through statistical regularities.

Also, there are at least two persons involved in the prayer. So, if the prayer is one of the "Please do this for me/us" sort, it matters whether the humans making the request believe that God will intervieve for them in the natural course of history in that way in that time -- and faith of that sort is a very rare thing in today's world.

B. Prokop said...

Steve,

I think C.S. Lewis had the best explanation of the efficacy of intercessory prayer, in that its effect was already "baked in the cake" so to speak, before the prayer was ever said. God, being outside of time, knew (knows?) from the first instant of creation what would be prayed for in all times and all places, and this was taken into account from the beginning.

I can't remember where I read this. I think it was in Mere Christianity.

Ilíon said...

VR: " Why don't you try taking Cal seriously on this and see where it goes? It's worth a try."

They did that ... not only early on in this thread, but in every other interaction with Cal Metzger. In return, they got mockery from Cal.

When are people allowed to believe their lying eyes?

grodrigues said...

@Cal Metzger:

I missed your reply. So with some delay:

"I didn't ask for them -- SteveK asked for them, and I responded what I thought the standard should be. This is basic stuff."

Now, what you took objection with was "So Cal asks for certain things that presumably would convince him that God exists..." presumably because you never *explicitly asked* for said things. But if you were interested in the truth and getting to the heart of the matter, instead of quibbling over words over which there is no reasonable quibbling, the "ask" is a reference to the requirements you ask for the evidence to be credible as my previous reply made it abundantly clear (*). Basic stuff indeed.

(*) Btw, apologies for naming you Kal Motzger. It does not *seem* to be a typo but a deliberate mispelling, but I have absolutely no remembrance what the hell I had in mind in doing it or even of wanting to do it.

"Since the question was asked of me, and I attest to them (on behalf of me), there is no dispute about what I think the standards are. When answering a question about what one thinks, the answers are not disputable. Again, this is basic stuff."

Yes this is basic stuff and yet you magae the admirable feat of failing yet again. Quite obviously, you better than everyone else knows what your own standards are. But I never disputed that; after all how could I? What I disputed was whether the standards are reasonable -- the very adjective you used. Standards are not arbitrary if they are to be rational and can be evaluated; rational standards are different in different fields of knowledge. The modern empirical sciences have a set of standards, History has another, Mathematics another, Literary Criticism another, etc, and etc. Because their proper objects are different, because the methods are different, etc. What is reasonable to ask in the modern empirical sciences like physics is not what is reasonable to ask in History. And what I *showed* was that your standard is not "reasonable".

"If I were you, I'd wonder why this would be the case -- as it's obvious from your writing style that you crave recognition as an intellectual, but your words so often fail to serve that purpose."

Thank you for the free advice. I do agree that I am not as successful as you are in your self-appointed role as the resident ignoramus, as it's obvious from what you write. Your words achieve the goal admirably and you have from me all the recognition you could ever ask.

SteveK said...

Cal,
In case you missed the message in all the back-and-forth comments, let me summarize what I think is the common message. You said:
I have suggested a way that the miraculous could rise to the level of knowledge, of real events, with real explanations.

Replies include:

- What I disputed was whether the standards are reasonable -- the very adjective you used. Standards are not arbitrary if they are to be rational and can be evaluated; rational standards are different in different fields of knowledge. The modern empirical sciences have a set of standards, History has another, Mathematics another, Literary Criticism another, etc, and etc.

- Your standards are not taught in ANY science classroom. I don't expect them to be, but YOU do. That's one of the problems here.

- You've suggested a way that isn't taught in any science department on any university campus that I know of.

- The model for prayerful communication with God is a conversation between two persons, not some causal physical process.

- Under strictly controlled conditions, God does what God wants.

B. Prokop said...

As for the (blasphemous) idea of using God as some sort of ATM machine, where one inserts a prayer and out comes a desired response, let's give the last word to the only Person ever to pray a perfect prayer (which by definition ought to be perfectly efficacious) - our Lord, Christ Jesus.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed as follows (according to Matthew):

"My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt. ... My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, thy will be done."

Or, as Mark records it:

"Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what thou wilt."

And finally, from Luke:

"Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done."

Now if the only perfect human being ever to live, praying the perfect prayer in perfect union with the Father, still does not get what He asks for, (that "this cup", i.e., His imminent suffering on the Cross, be removed) then we seriously need to rethink the ridiculous notion that the answer to our prayers is going to somehow resemble our desires.

oozzielionel said...

What if evidence for God met the same standard as current indications for life on Mars? Find a rock on Earth, date it at 3.7 billion years old, interpret patterns as evidence of microbial life, conclude that if it happened on Earth, it likely happened on Mars. With scientific method like this, we could easily prove the existence of God, don't you think?

Cal Metzger said...

SteveK: "Cal, In case you missed the message in all the back-and-forth comments, let me summarize what I think is the common message. You said: [Cal] "I have suggested a way that the miraculous could rise to the level of knowledge, of real events, with real explanations."

Yup. Because you asked me this:

SteveK: "If you could check it, what would you need to see that is tangible, examinable, verifiable, etc?"

Since then, it seems that you think that Grodriguez would somehow be correct for reprimanding me for answering your question. Damed if you do, damned if you don't, I suppose, if you try to honestly respond to a question around here.

I've read most of this thread as it occurred. Steve Lovell has characterized it accurately. I suggest you go back and re-read what he has written.

Honestly, without Lovell's involvement this would be one of the bigger train wrecks I've ever seen for how a pack of supposed Christian intellectuals read (not very well) and react (not very admirably) to reasonable criticism of what they say they believe.

I might reply to some of this later on if I have time and I think it would be fun to point out some more of the silliness that I've seen here, but I think I've repeated myself enough and at some point I've got to move on to something that will be a better use of my time.

Steve Lovell said...

I'm going to change tack a little here, in the hope of something positive coming from this discussion.

Bob (et al),

I agree that Jesus' prayer in the garden of Gethsemene should be a cause for reflection on these things. I also agree that there are many, many reasons why prayers may (or may appear to) go unanswered. I even agree that this really shouldn't lead us to give up either on Christianity or prayer. But I'm not sure we want to say the same thing about all kinds of prayer, and the things you are saying still make it seem to me that you are backing away from certain orthodox forms of prayer.

Several forms of prayer remain clearly intact:

(1a) Prayers of penitence
(1b) Prayers of thanks and praise
(1c) Prayers of silence and resting in God
(1d) Prayers of submission to God's will
... and no doubt many more ...

But what about, for example,

(2a) Prayers for healing (for self or others)
(2b) Prayers for widsom or guidance (for self or others)
(2c) Prayers for God's provision (for self or others)
(2d) Prayers for comfort and a sense of God's presence (for self or others)
(2e) Prayers for a parking spot (sorry, had to put it in, it seems to come up often in conversation)

Surely no one here needs me to quite chapter and verse from the Bible, but the instruction to come before God with all kinds of requests are repeated VERY frequently. Not only that, but we are repeatedly promised positive answers. Now I can well understand why we don't always (or even often) see these answers. The question is more why the promises are so out of proportion.

I know C.S. Lewis address this in his "Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer" (I need to reread that).

My issue is how it can remain psychologically possible (as well as health and rational) to continue offering prayers like (2a) to (2d) when they are continually met with disappointment. Should I simply give up on this kind of prayer? I think many people do. To my mind, it's this disappointment which prompts the sorts of questions about prayer we've been discussing. A desparate man clinging on to the last threads of a practice of prayer will certainly be more tempted to engage in such experiments, even at the risk of blasphemy.

Does that describe me? Better than I'm normally inclined to admit.

Legion of Logic said...

I'm a dispensationalist, so my number one question when something like "ask and ye shall receive" is presented is "Who is that promise made to, and why?" To date I have found no other exegesis that answers such seeming contradictions that doesn't require some pretzel logic to make work. I don't fancy myself a scholar or theologian, so the strength of my assertion reflects this.

Regardless, no prayer is answered that is out of the will of God, so if a prayer is seemingly not answered, the reflection should be upon the will of God, which can often be found in the scripture.

Legion of Logic said...

I'm a dispensationalist, so my number one question when something like "ask and ye shall receive" is presented is "Who is that promise made to, and why?" To date I have found no other exegesis that answers such seeming contradictions that doesn't require some pretzel logic to make work. I don't fancy myself a scholar or theologian, so the strength of my assertion reflects this.

Regardless, no prayer is answered that is out of the will of God, so if a prayer is seemingly not answered, the reflection should be upon the will of God, which can often be found in the scripture.

grodrigues said...

@Cal Metzger:

"Since then, it seems that you think that Grodriguez would somehow be correct for reprimanding me for answering your question. Damed if you do, damned if you don't, I suppose, if you try to honestly respond to a question around here. "

Assuming that "Grodriguez" means me -- I never would or could be "correct" or "incorrect" in having "reprimand[ed] you for answering" SteveK's question, for the simple reason that I never reprimanded you in the first place "for answering" SteveK's question, or any other question for that matter. Ever. Why would I do such a thing? That is simply yet another invention of yours pulled out of thin air. As a response to SteveK your answer also misses the point completely, but I'll let him do the protesting if he feels he has to.

Steve Lovell said...

SteveK,

Since, I've already offered a response to grod on Cal's behalf. But here are some comments on the other responses to Cal you mention ...

- Your standards are not taught in ANY science classroom. I don't expect them to be, but YOU do. That's one of the problems here.

- You've suggested a way that isn't taught in any science department on any university campus that I know of.


I think you'd be right here if Cal was saying that the imagined studies would prove that the events in question are miracles. But I don't think he's saying that. He's imagining a study into the effectiveness of prayer. This would be carried out in the same way as studies into the effectiveness of any medical intervention.

The question of whether the results are miraculous or the result of a previously unknown natural phenomenon is separate.

- The model for prayerful communication with God is a conversation between two persons, not some causal physical process.

While a conversation isn't merely a causal process, it surely is a process involving much in the way of cause and effect. I'm happy to grant that labelling the prayer as a causal process is wrong, but the question is whether prayer is effective and I think the however we characterise the process of prayer followed by answer, it will be sufficiently similar for the statistical studies to be a reasonable approach (if nontheless blasphemous). At least nothing in this conversational model of prayer suggests otherwise.

- Under strictly controlled conditions, God does what God wants.

Yes, God does what He wants. But the Bible seems pretty clear that God at least sometimes wants to answer prayers.

SteveK said...

Cal
"Damed if you do, damned if you don't, I suppose, if you try to honestly respond to a question around here."

Nobody here is complaining that you answered the question. I'm very glad you did. Your reply here completely misses the point that I summarized in my last comment. You had to intentionally do that because I know you're a smart guy. Why put on a show?

SteveK said...

Cal
"reasonable criticism of what they say they believe."

That's the very point in dispute - the reasonableness of your approach to criticism. If you read my summary points, you'll see how unreasonable your methods are.

SteveK said...

Steve Lovell
The question of whether the results are miraculous or the result of a previously unknown natural phenomenon is separate.

Cal is answering that separate question here. I specifically asked Cal:

"The difficultly is understanding WHY the result (growing limbs) is evidence for a miracle rather than evidence for a previously unknown natural phenomenon."

Cal is telling us WHY the results are evidence for God and for miracles. Science could only tell us why the results are evidence for natural phenomen because science restricts itself to natural explanations.

Cal is not doing science here, yet he thinks he is - and THAT is the problem! He chides Christian's making claims about God and miracles and tells them to take a basic science course so they too can learn WHY they have no evidence for God and miracles.

Cal Metzger said...

SteveK: "Cal is telling us WHY the results are evidence for God and for miracles."

No. I wrote, "Could there be another, natural explanation for one of the children in the prayer group growing a limb? Sure. But you asked what would count as evidence, and evidence is about probabilities -- and the probability would, given the rigor of the experiment, increase in something like I'm describing, for something like what most people believe when they talk about prayers, and miracles."

Once again, I answered how I imagined one could go about verifying that prayer works. That is a way that might work, that would start to move the needle, at least. Did I say there would be no problems, that this would do something like "prove" a Christian or some other god-like thing existed? No, no, I did not. But it would certainly start us down that road, and that is because the thing being studied (prayer) would have a measurable effect (limbs being regenerated).

I agree, btw, that those making supernatural claims have all kinds of difficulties when they attribute a phenomenon to an immaterial agent, but seeing as how we conduct science on personal agents all the time (psychology, for one), this wouldn't have to be a game-stopper. I didn't want to chase a myriad of rabbits down a growing number of holes, but this whole notion that god is an agent therefore we can't know anything about him is flatly contradicted by the fact that believers everywhere are not shy about telling you what god wants us to do. (It's so silly a dodge I didn't even want to address it, but since it seems to have gained some truck through repetition here I feel compelled to mention that.)

SteveK: "Science could only tell us why the results are evidence for natural phenomen because science restricts itself to natural explanations."

Not the way you probably mean. Science restricts itself to things that can be examined, that have an effect. Psychological studies examine how people behave. But seeing as how most theists I encounter online are dualists, this would mean that (for them) they should concede that science (at least the psychology) studies what they would consider immaterial as well.

SteveK: "Cal is not doing science here, yet he thinks he is - and THAT is the problem!"

What? I'm answering the question about one might go about verifying that prayer has a measurable effect.

SteveK: "He chides Christian's making claims about God and miracles and tells them to take a basic science course so they too can learn WHY they have no evidence for God and miracles."

Well, yeah, if someone claims that anecdotal, unverifiable claims amount to scientific knowledge (that which is objective, reliable, and, verifiable), then I will point out that they're mistaken. When they persist in ways that demonstrate they fundamentally misunderstand how scientific knowledge is acquired, then I will point that fact out as well. Are you suggesting that I shouldn't point out mistakes when I see them, or are you just saying that you think I'm too rude or whatnot when I do?

Cal Metzger said...

Grod: "Assuming that "Grodriguez" means me -- I never would or could be "correct" or "incorrect" in having "reprimand[ed] you for answering" SteveK's question, for the simple reason that I never reprimanded you in the first place "for answering" SteveK's question, or any other question for that matter. Ever. Why would I do such a thing? That is simply yet another invention of yours pulled out of thin air. As a response to SteveK your answer also misses the point completely, but I'll let him do the protesting if he feels he has to."

Like I said earlier, lot of flounce, not a lot substance.

Irony points, however, for reprimanding me for somehow not addressing someone's point, while repeatedly avoiding the heart of the discussion going on in front of you.

grodrigues said...

@Cal Metzger:

"Like I said earlier, lot of flounce, not a lot substance."

Since you are an idiot incapable of reading elementary English, allow me to explain it to you: of course there is not a "lot of substance" in the paragraph you quoted, because the only point of the paragraph was to show that I never said, implied or even so much as suggested the things you attributed to me.

The bit about you missing SteveK's point was just for rhetorical purposes. As I said, that particular discussion is to be conducted with him, not me.

"Irony points, however, for reprimanding me for somehow not addressing someone's point, while repeatedly avoiding the heart of the discussion going on in front of you."

I addressed the heart of the discussion. Namely, and as it regards your claims, in showing that the requirements for credible evidence of miracles you have put forward do not work. You have not responded to any of my points. Steve Lovell -- that you think was the only worthwhile commentator of the "pack of supposed Christian intellectuals" in this thread -- has inclusively said that "I think you've done the most here to show the problems with the statistical approach to prayer (beyond that of such testing being blasphemous). You are pointing out the difficulty in setting up a test such that the results would be detectable." As always your charges are a complete fabrication and devoid of any supporting evidence.

I do note that my last 3 replies to you consisted solely in me demonstrating that you misread plain, elementary English, and consistently invent charges out of whole cloth. Any more you care to vent?

Cal Metzger said...

Grod [emphasis mine]: "...I never would or could be "correct" or "incorrect" in having "reprimand[ed] you for answering" SteveK's question, for the simple reason that I NEVER REPRIMANDED YOU in the first place "FOR ANSWERING" STEVEK'S QUESTION, OR ANY OTHER QUESTION FOR THAT MATTER."

Yeah, words have meanings.

Reprimand: a severe reproof or rebuke, especially a formal one by a person in authority.
Rebuke (the word used in the definition above): To criticize or reprove sharply; reprimand.

Grod: "Reasonable standards" is precisely what is in dispute, so your ignorant excuses, while duly noted, are completely irrelevant. As I said: what an intellectual fraud.

The above is a kind of reprimand. See the definition of that word above. And see that your quote at the top of this comment is thus shown to be false.

Grod: "What I meant is that the argumentation of Mr. Metzger is unbelievably bad to the point of being intellectually bankrupt."

The above is a kind of reprimand. See the definition of that word above. And see that your quote at the top of this comment is thus shown to be false.

Grod: "I do note that my last 3 replies to you consisted solely in me demonstrating that you misread plain, elementary English, and consistently invent charges out of whole cloth."

No, you haven't demonstrated that I misread plain, elementary English. It seems that's someone else's problem here (see, above).

Btw, here's the predictable response from Grod:

Grod: "Cal, as you have shown yourself incapable of understanding even the most rudimentary grasp of common English (and yes, I intend the term "common" in its pejorative as well as mutual meanings), I am compelled to announce that you can only be called an imbecile; and seeing how conversing with an imbecile on matters for which he has not the capacity to comprehend yet alone fathom, I must declare that any further rejoinders by me are that upon which I may be impugned."

See how easy it is?



grodrigues said...

@Cal Metzger:

"The above is a kind of reprimand. See the definition of that word above. And see that your quote at the top of this comment is thus shown to be false."

It may be a kind of reprimand, I grant you that. Sort of, if you squint hard enough. But, to see if there is any inconsistency, let us go through what I actually said, shall we?

First, the sentence that I responded to:

"Since then, it seems that you think that Grodriguez would somehow be correct for reprimanding me for answering your question. Damed if you do, damned if you don't, I suppose, if you try to honestly respond to a question around here."

Now my response to it:

"I never would or could be "correct" or "incorrect" in having "reprimand[ed] you for answering" SteveK's question, for the simple reason that I never reprimanded you in the first place "for answering" SteveK's question, or any other question for that matter. Ever. Why would I do such a thing? That is simply yet another invention of yours pulled out of thin air. As a response to SteveK your answer also misses the point completely, but I'll let him do the protesting if he feels he has to."

In your sentence, the one this is a response to, you say that SteveK would "think that Grodriguez would somehow be correct for reprimanding me for answering your question". And then even add "Damed if you do, damned if you don't, I suppose, if you try to honestly respond to a question around here." The problem with this, and the essential content of my reply, is that I never damned you for responding or not responding any question, or for honestly or otherwise responding to any question, much less "reprimanded you" for not answering SteveK's question. Neither is saying that your argumentation "is unbelievably bad to the point of being intellectually bankrupt", if a reprimand, is a reprimand for answering or not answering any question, much less the specific questions floating around the thread. There is simply no such reprimand, neither is that the content of my dispute. If reprimand there is, is for giving shitty answers (and your general intellectual conduct), not the specific thing you attributed me.

This is the fourth post in which you have not addressed any of the points I made (feel free to interpret this as a reprimand for not answering a specific question), but rather choose to misinterpret and twist my words into saying what they do not say, in this or any other possible world, yanking them out of context, in what are chicken shit quibbles (admittedly the fault lies also with me, but I do not like being attributed things I never said). At any rate, enough of this, as by now this is a complete waste of time (both mine and yours).

SteveK said...

"When they persist in ways that demonstrate they fundamentally misunderstand how scientific knowledge is acquired, then I will point that fact out as well."

YOU are that persistent person. Name one science class that teaches students that scientific knowledge of God and miracles can be acquired through the methods you're suggesting. There is none. NONE. There's a reason for that, Cal.

Rasmus Møller said...

God wants to grant us our wishes to the degree it is safe and good for us.
Assume He granted wishes in a statistically significant way - would we organize, optimize and harness this new power for our own financial and political purposes?
- or would we be moved to love Him for His own sake fully, unconditionally and unselfishly?
If we do the latter, eternity will be joyful beyond comprehension. If we don't it will be hell. But it will be what we wanted.
Now what do you think our loving Father does?

Cal Metzger said...

SteveK: "YOU are that persistent person. Name one science class that teaches students that scientific knowledge of God and miracles can be acquired through the methods you're suggesting. There is none. NONE. There's a reason for that, Cal."

YOU are that persistent person. Name one science class that teaches students that scientific knowledge of werewolves and vampires can be acquired through the methods you're suggesting. There is none. NONE. There's a reason for that, Cal.

As I keep on saying, and you keep on not absorbing, you're understanding (of basic science, and science education) seems so fundamentally malformed that I don't even know where to start.

In case you still don't understand my point:

- Yes, there is a reason science class doesn't teach about the efficacy of prayers, or lunar transmorphing, or the post-death rejuvenation powers of drinking blood. That is because while the concepts for these things exist, there is no accompanying evidence that supports their descriptions.
- As I responded upthread, verifiable evidence could consist of something like what I described. Numerous other commenters have explained why the verifiable evidence I described should not exist, but it doesn't seem like anyone is disputing that the evidence, in the form I described (similar to a clinical trial, as prescribed by an organization like the FDA), does not exist.
- You seem to be harping on the fact that science classes don't teach that we can look for god in the way I described (a clinical study on the efficacy of prayer), and therefore I don't understand science? But all I am doing is stating a way that we could have verifiable evidence for something like what Christians describe could be a viable explanation (a god) for a real effect (regeneration of limbs) based on a controlled phenomenon (humans praying).

Now, I understand that Christians can explain (as some do above) that the clinical trial as I describe not only does not exist, but shouldn't exist. (This is a trivial feat for any phenomenon -- Why did the car not start? The invisible unicorns have their reasons. Why did the car start this time? The invisible unicorns have their reasons. Etc.) But I think conjecture about the motivations of a god-like agent only deepens the problem, and introduces practically meaningless explanation -- it basically resorts to rationalizing a world that's identical to a world WITHOUT the god-like agent -- for evidence we don't have. (Why did the clouds not form letters spelling out the plans for the unicorns next move? Is it a) because the unicorns do not wish us to know their next move? or b) the unicorns don't know their next move?, and if b) does that mean that c) the unicorns have deliberative sessions, and if so, d) who is the lead unicorn? Etc.)

Legion of Logic said...

"But I think conjecture about the motivations of a god-like agent only deepens the problem, and introduces practically meaningless explanation -- it basically resorts to rationalizing a world that's identical to a world WITHOUT the god-like agent -- for evidence we don't have."

Not really. There is still the issue of explaining why anything exists and why what does exist is the way it is, and atheism is unable to do this beyond :just because", which is inferior to intention. If intent and "just because" are my options, then what I see is best explained by intent. (And I'm not talking about how life adapts, I'm talking why does the universe have properties to result in life subject to evolution).

Theological beliefs can sometimes put people in difficult positions to defend, but I do not find it problematic that God doesn't cooperate with experiments and doesn't act like a wish-granting genie (or monkey's paw, given my luck.)

If the unicorns get brought back up, then I'll have no choice but to agree that yes, even the unicorns make more sense to me than atheism as an ultimate explanation. So please, don't.

Cal Metzger said...

Legion: "Not really. There is still the issue of explaining why anything exists and why what does exist is the way it is, and atheism is unable to do this beyond :just because", which is inferior to intention."

But we're talking about prayer and miracles and verification. If you want to talk about cosmology, that's another thing. If you want to talk about reality, I think that science describes reality waaaaay more accurately than any religion.

Legion: "If intent and "just because" are my options, then what I see is best explained by intent. (And I'm not talking about how life adapts, I'm talking why does the universe have properties to result in life subject to evolution)."

You're certainly not alone. Coming from my vantage point, I can't understand why you (and so many others) can't seem to imagine a world where brute facts are the surest stopping point, and work forward from there.

Legion: "Theological beliefs can sometimes put people in difficult positions to defend, but I do not find it problematic that God doesn't cooperate with experiments and doesn't act like a wish-granting genie (or monkey's paw, given my luck.)"

If I believed in god's existence, I would feel the same way you do.

Legion: "If the unicorns get brought back up, then I'll have no choice but to agree that yes, even the unicorns make more sense to me than atheism as an ultimate explanation. So please, don't."

Unicorns unicorns unicorns. :)

Legion of Logic said...

Nnnoooooooo

SteveK said...

Cal,
I will set aside the very important problem of conducting a carefully controlled test without ever having control of God, and instead focus on this one point

"But all I am doing is stating a way that we could have verifiable evidence for something like what Christians describe could be a viable explanation (a god) for a real effect (regeneration of limbs) based on a controlled phenomenon (humans praying)."

The regrowing of limbs via prayer is EQUALLY *scientific knowledge* of evidence for something that a naturalist would hypothesize - if it fit their competing naturalistic model. There will *always* be a possible competing naturalistic model.

You have to step outside the boundaries of scientific knowledge to conclude that test results are more likely evidence for God than it is for nature. This is what you are doing. I cannot learn this skill in any science class or research lab and neither can you, Cal, so stop with all the high minded "if you only knew science" talk.

That is my point.

Cal Metzger said...

SteveK: "You have to step outside the boundaries of scientific knowledge to conclude that test results are more likely evidence for God than it is for nature. This is what you are doing. I cannot learn this skill in any science class or research lab and neither can you, Cal, so stop with all the high minded "if you only knew science" talk. / That is my point."

mkay.

I think I'm done with responding to you. You write like someone who is entirely sure that he is right about something, but he doesn't know what that something is, nor what it would mean to be right about it.

I think that Mark Twain pointed out that one shouldn't argue with fools, because bystanders might not be able to tell the difference. So, I'm kind of done with risking that confusion. I hope you find clarity and fulfillment in your life, but I don't think that I can help you any more than I have (and, sadly, that seems to be not very much at all).





SteveK said...

You're confused Cal. That's okay. I said what needed to be said.

Joe Hinman said...

Another way of dismnissing experience of believer is to use techniques of reductionist until we lose phenomena This is the approach of Wayne Proudfoot

My answer to Proudfoot

Steve Lovell said...

SteveK,

I'm really not sure I understand what point you're making against Cal here. In your last response to me you said the problem with what Cal was saying is that he thought the double-blind statistical trials could establish supernatural conclusions including the miraculous, which you (rightly) said was nonsense.

Since then, Cal has clarified (or changed) his position saying that he was only aiming at the lesser conclusion which I outlined as being to establish the effectiveness (or otherwise) of prayer.

Now either you're still trying to criticise him for the original overstatement of his position, or you're now criticising him for something else without having explained what. In one case I've got no idea what you're saying, in the other case I've got no idea why you're (still) saying it. What am I missing?

SteveK said...

Steve Lovell
All of his comments have been tied back to his original statements in some form or another. If he changed his position and retracted his position about God and miracles, he certainly has not made that clear.

Cal Metzger said...

SteveK: "You're confused Cal. That's okay. I said what needed to be said."

If only any of us knew what you meant I think the statement above would make more sense.

----

Prokop: "And Cal has the nerve, the utter, shameless gall, to claim he visits Dangerous Idea in order to point out inconsistency and hypocrisy. He need look no further than in the mirror."
Me: "can you cite where I have been inconsistent and hypocritical?"
Prokop: "Yes, I can."
Prokop: "Cal self-righteously claims he's never been inconsistent..."
Me: "Lie much?"
Prokop, in response, offers this from me: "Cal (earlier): "Can you cite where I have been inconsistent?"

----

What's interesting to me here is that SteveK and Prokop both objectively fail to demonstrate (cite, elaborate, etc.) their claims, despite persistent requests to do so. And both still claim that they somehow have?

And here's the problem -- both of them could (and probably will) support one another by asserting that the other has done what they claim (when they have objectively not done so), and their agreement will be all they need to feel that they have done what they have not.

It's kind of weird if you care about language, and meaning, and argument. But it also aligns with the idea that humans tend to attest to beliefs that align them with a group, and maintain group cohesion, and not with beliefs that necessarily align with an objective reality. At least that's the best explanation I can come up with.

SteveK said...

Cal
I get it. You don't understand what I'm saying.

Cal Metzger said...

SteveK: "Cal / I get it. You don't understand what I'm saying."

No. It's more a case of you're not making sense. I'm not the only one who can't make out what your point is. E.g.

Lovell: "I'm really not sure I understand what point [SteveK is] making against Cal here."

SteveK said...

Cal,
Apparently you are the only one who is able to understand what you are saying so this cuts both ways. Is Steve Lovell correct that you've changed your position, or did he too misunderstand?

Cal Metzger said...

SteveK: "Apparently you are the only one who is able to understand what you are saying so this cuts both ways"

Nope. Lovell understands what I am saying. See his comments. See me not disagreeing with his comments. See him pointing out that you are not making much sense in regard to my comments. This is exactly the opposite of cutting both ways.

SteveK: "Is Steve Lovell correct that you've changed your position, or did he too misunderstand?"

Lovell has more or less correctly summarized my comments throughout here. I don't think one could read my comments, in their entirety, and be a) confused about what my position is, or b) characterize my elaborations as changing my position.

What is the point that you think you've made, and how does it relate to all of my comments here related to the topic? I'd suggest you read everything I've read here and try to understand my position not as something you think you can find fault with, but as something you probably don't understand. Understanding is necessary before criticizing, and I don't think you understand my position (and I'm not so sure you understand your own, as not being able to write what you think is usually an indication that you don't know what you're thinking is) well enough to even criticize it.

As Stevel Lovell and I keep on asking you, What is your point (and how does it relate to a fair representation of my position)?




SteveK said...

So, to quote Steve Lovell, you are "only aiming at the lesser conclusion which [Lovell] outlined as being to establish the effectiveness (or otherwise) of prayer"

Fine. Good.

You didn't attempt to establish a relationship between the effectiveness of prayer and that effectiveness being evidence for God rather than some previously unknown natural phenomenon.

Good. Perfect.

SteveK said...

That last statement isn't true if we look back at the comments. Your opening comment that kicked off a flurry criticism attempted to establish such a relationship based on what you've referred to as "scientific knowledge".

Cal Metzger said...

@SteveK,

As Stevel Lovell and I keep on asking you, What is your point (and how does it relate to a fair representation of my position)?

SteveK said...

My point is what I just said: a reading of the comments shows the last statement I made isn't true. Now would be a good time to confirm or deny that.

Cal Metzger said...

SteveK: "My point is what I just said: a reading of the comments shows the last statement I made isn't true. Now would be a good time to confirm or deny that."

Which last statement? How hard is is to just write down what your point is, and how it relates to my position. This is ridiculous.

bmiller said...

Hi All,

I've been following the thread. I read it as follows:

Cal suggests that a test for miraculous healing by prayer could be tested for by a scientific double blind study and this would convince him.

Others object for a couple of reasons:
1) Scientific double blind studies require control of all variables except the one under study. The variable under study is miraculous healing as the dependent variable with prayer being the independent variable. God, as postulated by theists, is a free agent and therefore not a variable under control in this experiment. Therefore some consider this an unreasonable test.
2) The methods suited to studying physics do not apply to the study of possible miraculous events. If they did, then there would be agreement in physics literature and indeed courses on how to perform the tests.

I think Cal is challenging his interlocutors for an alternative test that he might consider valid.

The problem for the theists is that the branch of study that addresses the subject matter is named theology which Cal rejects out of hand. The study of theology uses different methods than physics, just as the study of art, language and history use different methods.

So it seems the real issue for theists is a philosophical. Unless Cal can be convinced that the scientism worldview is wrong, then talk of miracles are off the table.

B. Prokop said...

bmiller,

Not a bad re-cap. Cal (whom I do not know other than his postings here) appears to be a scientismist - i.e., one who believes that the one and only path to truth is "Science!". Philosophy, theology, art, literature, liturgy, music, whatever are only valid as long as they describe the motion of atoms and the mutations of energy.

The very idea of subjecting prayer to some sort of double-blind test is (putting aside the blasphemous element of such a thing) the equivalent of critiquing A Winter's Tale by analyzing the ink that Shakespeare used to write it. There are times and places where the "Scientific Method" is simply not appropriate - no more so than a hammer is appropriate if what you want to do is drive in a screw.

Cal Metzger said...

Thank you bmiller for fairly (despite some clarifications I could add) representing my comments.

Ilíon said...

B.Prokop: Not a bad re-cap. Cal (whom I do not know other than his postings here) appears to be a scientismist - i.e., one who believes that the one and only path to truth is "Science!".

While I agree that by the informal rules governing the coinage of English words, the term 'scientismist' would be the word to denote a proponent of scientism (that is, a 'Science!' fetishist). But, at the same time, 'scientismist' is a bit awkward. So, I refer to such a person as a 'scientiste'. My use of the term 'scientiste' is a nod to Miss Piggy, the 'Artiste' ... and a recognition that these peopls are poseurs, for whenever a scientific statement points toward God, they ignore it, or belittle its proponents, or promote *any* irrational and inteed anti-scientific "theory" which seems to offer a way around the offensive scientific statement.

B.Prokop: There are times and places where the "Scientific Method" is simply not appropriate - no more so than a hammer is appropriate if what you want to do is drive in a screw.".

I think it's less that the only tool these people have is a hammer as that the only problem they have is a nail. When the only problem you have is a nail, every tool becomes a hammer.

Miguel said...

I am reminded of David Bentley Hart's words:

"In my experience, those who make the most theatrical display of demanding “proof” of God are also those least willing to undertake the specific kinds of mental and spiritual discipline that all the great religious traditions say are required to find God. If one is left unsatisfied by the logical arguments for belief in God, and instead insists upon some “experimental” or “empirical” demonstration, then one ought to be willing to attempt the sort of investigations necessary to achieve any sort of real certainty regarding a reality that is nothing less than the infinite coincidence of absolute being, consciousness, and bliss. In short, one must pray: not fitfully, not simply in the manner of a suppliant seeking aid or of a penitent seeking absolution but also according to the disciplines of infused contemplation, with real constancy of will and a patient openness to grace, suffering states of both dereliction and ecstasy with the equanimity of faith, hoping but not presuming, so as to find whether the spiritual journey, when followed in earnest, can disclose its own truthfulness…"

I wonder how many atheists actually pray like this. Not just in a fit, but constantly, with proper discipline and consideration for what saints have been doing for millenia.

True, many atheists were once believers. But that doesn't guarantee that they ever prayed in a very significant sense. And one may also forget such things and need to put them in practice again.

Personally, however, I've never met an atheist who tried this.

Ilíon said...

^ Excellent point.

B. Prokop said...

Good point, Miguel.

Let's say you're standing in front of two doors. One leads to the pantry and the other to your clothes closet. Now if what you want is a clean shirt, it does no good to repeatedly open the first door and then complain you can't find any clothes behind it.

In like manner, we all stand before two doors. Through the first is knowledge of the physical universe, and on the other side of the second door is an encounter with God. A person who insists on conducting a double blind test for the efficacy of prayer is likewise stubbornly opening only Door Number One and concluding there is no God.

B. Prokop said...

By the way, note my use of the word "encounter". I once heard a rabbi say something like "God is not a proposition to be proven, but rather a Person to be encountered." (Or words to that effect - I can't recall the exact quote.) Truer words were never spoken.

Steve Lovell said...

As wise as those words from David Bentley Hart are, I think that strictly speaking they are beside the point and taken literally are in fact false.

The demand for "empirical" proof is happy to rely on the prayers of others, these and their results may be available empirically. Now, if who move to the other point of demanding the answer to prayer to be part of one's OWN experience (for which neither "empirical" nor "experimental" is the right word), then the quote becomes very much to the point.

SteveK said...

Bmiller
Pretty good recap in 1 & 2. Why Cal cannot grasp this is baffling

Cal
"Which last statement? How hard is is to just write down what your point is, and how it relates to my position. This is ridiculous."

Everyone but you knows. Why is that? See bmiller #2 for a recap of the problem I've been describing.

Steve Lovell said...

SteveK,

I think I know which statement you meant when you said "my last statement". Unfortunately it wasn't your previous statement, but the one before that.

Your latest point is, I reckon, simply that you think Cal did make the stronger claim (that the imagined experiment could confirm/disconfirm the supernatural and not just the efficacy of prayer) and that your are therefore right in critiquing that claim.

Fine. I don't feel I need to take view on whether Cal has changed his position or clarified it. What is clear is that Cal doesn't now make the stronger claim. And yet you still seem to feel the need to continue critiquing it when it's simply no longer relevant (if it ever was).

Unfortunately, bmiller's summary also falls into this interpretive error in his second point.

As a result comparatively little is being said about the more important challenges to the set up of such an experiment.

Now if you want to complain that Cal wasn't clear and claim that as a defence for your peculiar behaviour, I'm happy to accept that explanation (Cal might not be, I don't know). But can we not at last move on and discuss something more worthwhile?

Cal Metzger said...

To be clear, I have not changed my position.

Waay upthread, I was asked to be specific about the kind of verifiable evidence that I think could change my mind about something like a god having a real effect in the world. (I had mentioned that anecdotes and personal experienced didn't cut it, for instance.)

Since the question was about the kind of evidence, I elaborated that it would be similar to a clinical trial, like one approved by the FDA. Did this mean that I am unaware of other problems that those claiming a supernatural intervention might face? No, mostly because a) I have long been aware of these challenges, but more importantly, b) speculation about what might be causing the verifiable phenomena like I mentioned (amputees, prayer, regeneration) isn't forthcoming. Sooo, supernatural explanation is unnecessary and irrelevant, because we don't have the show starter (verifiable phenomena).

I seriously still don't know what SteveK is talking about. It remains telling that a) I am not alone in my confusion, b) SteveK seems incapable of clarifying either his position or his criticism of what I've written, and c) two other commenters seem to have had no trouble basically representing my position reasonably accurately.

That being said, I agree with Steve Lovell (yet again), and would gladly address any criticism that actually represents my position fairly, and b) offers up something worthwhile discussing.

SteveK said...

"b) speculation about what might be causing the verifiable phenomena like I mentioned (amputees, prayer, regeneration) isn't forthcoming."

You speculated

B. Prokop said...

I just posted this over on Ilion's blog, but I think it bears being part of this discussion as well:

The atheist obsession with miracles is telling. If I were a believer in conspiracy theories (which I'm not) I'd say that it smells of an attempt at entrapment - with trying to get Christians to commit to a "gap" argument for the faith - which could then be crushed.

But I would wager that at least 99.99 percent of prayer is not aimed at hope for a miracle. As far as I myself am concerned, I can recall only one time ever that I've explicitly prayed for a miracle. And since it was for a person I not only do not know, but have never even met, I have no idea whether or not my prayer was "effective".

So even if one could (horrid thought) devise some sort of test to see whether praying for miracles "works", you're only dealing with the loose change in the sofa cushions and not with the bank account balance.

Victor Reppert said...

In light of the context, I think I am going to stand up for Cal at least in part. The OP, (which seems kind of forgotten) talked about Dawkins saying that someone who claimed direct experience of God hallucinated. What struck me about Dawkins' response was the lack of epistemic modesty in the response. It wasn't "It might not have been veridical, you could have hallucinated, and since I have had no such experience, it does nothing to persuade me that there is a God. And if I did experience something like that, I would need to fit it in with the rest of my experience in order to know what to say about it." I think that is the sort of thing I would say if I were an atheist confronted with someone saying something like that.

Cal responded by saying that something like this wouldn't persuade him (I would be surprised if it did), but that he would need something that has independent scientific verification. If Christianity claims that prayer makes a difference, then if science were to show a significant correlation between prayer and, say, healing, this would be taken more seriously. Some people talk as if prayer studies are all negative. They are not. The difficulty is isolating prayer as a causal influence on the world as opposed to other possible naturalistic causes. And, as Christians have pointed out here, if we really succeeded in isolating divine influence in a systematic way on events, we would end up turning God into a lab rat. All quite correct, but as I am reading this Cal didn't offer the prayer issue up as atheology. Sir Russ over at Debunking Christianity likes to do this, and Cal might think that people like Russ are right in doing so, but in context here he isn't doing this. He is saying that given the fact that he is now an atheist, the sort of thing that he might be prepared to take seriously as evidence would be a strong statistical trend of answered prayer where other kinds of causes for the difference can be ruled out. And we don't have this, so he remains unpersuaded.

But I wouldn't have expected Cal, or Dawkins, to fall down on his knees in response to an experiential claim someone like the questioner. But I thought there were other ways of responding.

Cal Metzger said...

And thank you, VR, for fairly summarizing my position as well.

SteveK said...

Victor,
"If Christianity claims that prayer makes a difference, then if science were to show a significant correlation between prayer and, say, healing, this would be taken more seriously."

True, however the reason for taking it more seriously comes not from scientific knowledge but from other sources. So when Cal says the scientific knowledge that came from his carefully controlled experiment is the reason for him being convinced - that is false. It played a role, sure. Cal thinks the answer to becoming convinced lies in the scientific body of knowledge, hence his obsession with controlled studies. Bob and the others recognize Cal's scientism so I'm not the only one.

Consider this a reworded summary of my ongoing criticisms.

Cal Metzger said...

SteveK: "True, however the reason for taking it more seriously comes not from scientific knowledge but from other sources. "

No. And again it appears that you don't understand what scientific knowledge means. Imagine my surprise.

SteveK: "So when Cal says the scientific knowledge that came from his carefully controlled experiment is the reason for him being convinced - that is false."

Trainwreck sentence write much?

SteveK: "Cal thinks the answer to becoming convinced lies in the scientific body of knowledge, hence his obsession with controlled studies."

Um, yeah, that's it. Plus, hence.

SteveK: "Consider this a reworded summary of my ongoing criticisms."

Oh, I will. I will.

Legion of Logic said...

Okay, let's just ask a direct question and get a direct answer, shall we?

Cal, do you believe that science is the only reliable or relevant means of acquiring true knowledge?

Legion of Logic said...

(I ask because I think I understand some of what SteveK is getting at, but it hasn't been directly stated yet. Or I may be way off, in which case he will let me know and I will shut up.)

SteveK said...

Legion
Your question is a bit too generic in my opinion. Cal has knowledge of going to the grocery store and I doubt he will say science is the only reliable way to know that grocery stores exist - so he will say 'no' probably.

My complaint centers around the way knowledge of God's existence is obtained. Remember, we cannot assume God exists. That is what the experiment is supposed to verify/confirm, and subsequently convince us.

I would end your question this way "...true knowledge about the existence of a non-natural, non-physical free agent with causal abilities?"

Because that is what Cal is saying as I read his comments about what would convince him that God exists. Am I wrong?



Steve Lovell said...

@Bob,

I think you may be right in some cases that that is the game the atheist is playing. But I don't think there is any necessity to it. Having said that, I've also never been truly convinced that so-called "God of the gaps" argumentation is necessarily wrong headed.

There is no particular reason the imagined statistical trial couldn't also take into account account answers to prayer which are "baked in" as you worded it earlier. Miracles in the strict sense of the term may not be required for God to answer prayer, but as is often said, "when people pray, coincidences happen". And if they happen more when people pray than when they don't then in principle that could be picked up in the gathered statistics.

@SteveK

You write above "Remember, we cannot assume God exists. That is what the experiment is supposed to verify/confirm, and subsequently convince us."

Now this is not very carefully worded. The imagined experiment is supposed to confirm/disconfirm the effectiveness of prayer. Making further inferences from that is not part of the experiment. You may not have meant to say anything contrary to that, but as stated if Cal were to agree with you he'd open himself back up to your original criticisms again.

Now as to those further inferences, it would be surprising if one's assessment of the statement "prayer is effective" were utterly independent of one's assessment of "God exists". The relationship between those propositions isn't part of the experiment, which means one isn't doing science when one brings it in. But the obviousness and relevance of the connection makes it difficult not to bring it in, which is why I think Cal can be forgiven for occasionally leaving the impression that he thinks science can take us the whole distance.

Ilíon said...

VR: "In light of the context, I think I am going to stand up for Cal at least in part. The OP, (which seems kind of forgotten) talked about Dawkins saying that someone who claimed direct experience of God hallucinated. What struck me about Dawkins' response was the lack of epistemic modesty in the response. It wasn't "It might not have been veridical, you could have hallucinated, and since I have had no such experience, it does nothing to persuade me that there is a God. And if I did experience something like that, I would need to fit it in with the rest of my experience in order to know what to say about it." I think that is the sort of thing I would say if I were an atheist confronted with someone saying something like that."

Oh! You mean that we ought to respond as the Bible instructs us to respond to claims of direct experience of (and/or messages from) God: "Test the spirits"

VR: "Cal responded by saying that something like this wouldn't persuade him ...."

Well, no. Actually he responded by saying -- in his very first post in this thread --

"... The dynamic always kind of seems like this: one who claims to have had a direct religious experience (Claimant) demands to be believed, and insinuates that those who are skeptical are arrogant and / or dismissive of the Claimant as a person. It's all sort of, "Look at that mean, mean skeptic, who is so arrogant about his own assessment of the world that he demeans a fellow human beings (mine!) experience!"

To me, it comes across in an opposite way -- the Claimant always seems to be a kind of narcissist, saying, "Ignore all you know and all that others experience, I alone am privy to a truth from which you have been (for proper reasons) excluded."
"

Goodness! Wasn't someone just asking the other day: "Where do these conversations go wrong?"

B. Prokop said...

As to evangelists "demanding" that others believe their personal "direct religious experiences" (i.e., encounter with God).. let's, as they say, go to the tape.

The prototypical "direct religious experience"*** has got to be St. Paul's encounter with the Risen Christ on the road to Damascus. Now, considering the life-changing nature of that experience, one might expect Paul to make it a centerpiece of his preaching. But quite the contrary! "For I judged not myself to know anything among you, but Jesus Christ, and him crucified." (1 Cor 2:2) No mention of the Damascus Road. In fact, the only times I can think of where he does bring up his encounter with the Risen Lord is when he is defending himself against false accusations, and not at the moment engaging in evangelism. Example: "I am compelled to boast. It is not a profitable employment, but I will proceed to visions and revelations granted me by the Lord." (2 Cor 12:1) So you see he does so unwillingly - it is not his preference to bring up his personal experiences.

*** Note the ambiguous nature of this term. I for one do not care for it at all. An encounter with God is not a "religious" experience, or at least, not primarily one. It is a door opened up between our created world and the infinitely larger Reality that enfolds it.

SteveK said...

Steve Lovell
"The imagined experiment is supposed to confirm/disconfirm the effectiveness of prayer. Making further inferences from that is not part of the experiment."

Cal has stated repeatedly that his position has not changed. There is no 'then' and 'now' as you want there to be. He stated a further inference.

SteveK said...

Steve Lovell,
"Making further inferences from that is not part of the experiment. You may not have meant to say anything contrary to that, but as stated if Cal were to agree with you he'd open himself back up to your original criticisms again."

Since Cal has not changed his position since the beginning, let's look at what Cal said about this.

Cal: "I have suggested a way that the miraculous could rise to the level of knowledge, of real events, with real explanations."

There it is - the inference you said was not there. A highly controlled experiment, if done properly, would be the way to knowledge about the existence of God.

SteveK said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cal Metzger said...

SteveK: "There it is - the inference you said was not there. A highly controlled experiment, if done properly, would be the way to knowledge about the existence of God." Etc.

Reading these comments is almost becoming painful. It's like watching Steve Lovell try and save you by throwing you a life raft and watching you repeatedly swim in the wrong direction every time.



SteveK said...

Steve Lovell,
The relationship between those propositions isn't part of the experiment, which means one isn't doing science when one brings it in.

Of course, I agree with you. The problem here is getting Cal to agree that the scientific body of knowledge, which includes the experiment itself, didn't give him knowledge of God. Other prior 'outside' knowledge is necessary. If Cal would agree to that then I will stop the criticism. It's up to Cal at this point.

Ilíon said...

B.Prokop: "As to evangelists "demanding" that others believe their personal "direct religious experiences" (i.e., encounter with God).. let's, as they say, go to the tape. ... So you see he does so unwillingly - it is not his preference to bring up his personal experiences."

Yes; Biblical religion has *always* been about publically accessible (i.e. objective) and historically grounded "encounters with God". We Christians and Jews leave that "burning in the breast" to the Mormons and that "long, long ago and far, far away" to the Buddhists and Hindus.

Cal Metzger said...

SteveK: "The problem here is getting Cal to agree that the scientific body of knowledge, which includes the experiment itself, didn't give him knowledge of God. Other prior 'outside' knowledge is necessary. If Cal would agree to that then I will stop the criticism. It's up to Cal at this point."

Um, we should surmise that Cal doesn't think he's been given knowledge of any god because Cal doesn't believe that any gods exist. Cal has explained that verifiable evidence for the effectiveness of prayer would start the discussion about immaterial (?) agent causation, but the lack of evidence for the effectiveness of prayer makes the problems with inference for an immaterial (?) agent moot. Cal has explained this many, many times now.

So, Cal has yet to hear criticism from you of his position. But he has read a ton of extraneous comments whose purpose seems to be salvaging some imagined pride over the fact that you can't seem to grasp the point, and / or to try and pin your comprehension difficulties on my writing or style of argument. Neither thing makes you look very good now, though, does it?

SteveK said...

Cal has explained that verifiable evidence for the effectiveness of prayer would start the discussion about immaterial (?) agent causation, but the lack of evidence for the effectiveness of prayer makes the problems with inference for an immaterial (?) agent moot.

The effectiveness of prayer is just one more controlled experiment among all the others that give us knowledge about nature, not God. What makes this experiment so special? Cal doesn't tell us.

The scientific thing for Cal to say, based solely on the body of scientific knowledge, would be that this experiment starts the discussion about some natural phenomenon that we haven't quite figured out. There is still no scientific evidence that an immaterial agent exists. See science on the ego, dualism and the soul.

So, Cal has yet to hear criticism from you of his position

SteveK's criticism is that your position plunges headlong into non-scientific territory. If you would acknowledge that fact, SteveK would stop criticizing you. Cal has learned to perceive vague traces of a non-natural, non-physical free agent cause. Science does not teach anybody this particular skill. Cal learned it from outside sources. SteveK did too, but SteveK is honest enough to admit to that.

Cal Metzger said...

SteveK: "Cal has learned to perceive vague traces of a non-natural, non-physical free agent cause. "

I just don't know what to say anymore. Words are powerless against you. Meaning and argument are of no use. You are either a deeply tragic, or comic character. Probably, both.

Don't go changing, Stevek! Not that you could!



SteveK said...

If you have not learned to infer (deduce, perceive) something other than natural causes, why is there now a reason to start the discussion about them? It is no longer a moot point, you say. Explain that logic to me.

Legion of Logic said...

SteveK said this to me above:

"My complaint centers around the way knowledge of God's existence is obtained. Remember, we cannot assume God exists. That is what the experiment is supposed to verify/confirm, and subsequently convince us."

So Cal, hopefully this is a stripped down essence. Two parts really.

If your proposed prayer study were to establish positive correlation between prayer and healing, why would this ever be considered evidence for something like God and not simply for a previously unknown but entirely natural phenomenon?

And two, how could the scientific method be used to locate evidence for God and differentiate between God and unknown natural phenomena?

SteveK said...

To all the onlookers (if any are left): I'd like to hear what you think.

The issue is the acquisition of knowledge, specifically knowledge of something other than nature (i.e. God). Cal says he has no knowledge of it, but tells us there is a way.

Cal: "I have suggested a way that the miraculous could rise to the level of knowledge"

Steve Lovell said Cal is relying "the obviousness and relevance of the connection" between the results of an experiment and the conclusion that something other than nature things exists (God). I agree, it's as obvious as hell to any sane person that God exists, but it's not obvious and relevant to the *sciences* (my key point) otherwise the sciences would spread this knowledge (here's how to discover non-natural reality), or at the very least would support those that wanted to teach it in the classrooms because it's so obvious.

What say you? Criticize away. I can take it :)

SteveK said...

Good comment Legion. Expect a non-answer or something about you being unable to understand. I've asked almost the same questions.

planks length said...

"To all the onlookers (if any are left): I'd like to hear what you think."

There aren't any left. I (and probably everyone else) stopped paying attention to what you and Cal had to say to each other about 50 comments ago. Time for both of you to realize you speak different languages and move along.

Cal Metzger said...

@Legion, I'm done trying to make sense of SteveK's comments, but if you can find coherent questions in them and can package them in ways that are tractable and relevant then I'm game.

Legion: "If your proposed prayer study were to establish positive correlation between prayer and healing, why would this ever be considered evidence for something like God and not simply for a previously unknown but entirely natural phenomenon?"

Because if you have a correlation then you can start to run further experiments that test your hypothesis about what you think is causing the correlation.

It's not up to me to form a god hypothesis, but it doesn't have to be much more sophisticated than putting forth your follow-up hypothesis about how this god is supposed to behave, and testing to see if it's true.

In the case of god, I believe that most Christians would say that their god is an agent -- that he thinks, that he cares, that he has motives, etc. So, what could distinguish this god-like agent (that thinks, that cares, that has motives) from an inexplicable natural force that is not an agent?

- The Christian god is supposed to care what we believe and how we behave. What other experiments can we devise that test this hypothesis (which includes, of course, how this hypothesis would be disproven).
- The Christian god is supposed to be like [this], so what other hypotheses can we devise that test [this]?

So, here are some thoughts that would get me started.

What if the assigned prayer groups prayed to different gods, to see if only praying to a particular kind of identified god effected results while other kinds of praying to differently-identified gods did not. This would disprove the notion that praying to any god would effect the asked for (naturally inexplicable) results. The probability for a kind of god hypothesis would go up.

What if different people and different groups of people prayed to the same identified god, and they all got the naturally inexplicable results? This would disprove the notion that it was only one person or group of persons who could effect the (naturally inexplicable) results. The probability for a kind of god hypothesis would go up.

What if the regeneration was prayed for on different kinds of people -- those who had exhibited exemplary living, and others who had not (mass-murders, psychopaths, sadists, etc.). If the amputation regeneration only occurred on certain types of people, despite controlling the prayer part of the experiment, this would help to disprove the notion that the moral character of those effected had no impact on regeneration. The probability for a kind of god hypothesis -- one who cared about earthly actions, and punished those who transgressed -- would go up.

Now, you might say all of these are hopelessly flawed, etc. But keep in mind that they're just my starter ideas for testing for certain kinds of gods that are sometimes defined. If you think that there is no hypothesis that could test evidence for how you define god, then I'd simply ask why anyone else should be persuaded that your god exists.









bmiller said...

@Cal

I think the complaint is that what you've proposed is a "non-commitment" commitment.

"Because if you have a correlation then you can start to run further experiments that test your hypothesis about what you think is causing the correlation."

It appears from your answer that even if they all tested positive for high probability for the "God" hypothesis, you would still seek more "evidence". Am I right?


B. Prokop said...

"Am I right?"

Of course you're right! Next to "Rabbit Hole" in the dictionary is a picture of an atheist demanding more "evidence".

It's a silly game atheists like to play - nothing serious about it at all. I tell you the honest truth, were it not for a genuine concern for the health of their souls, they wouldn't deserve the time of day. There is no profit in engaging a person who utterly refuses to listen to reason.

Cal Metzger said...

bmiller: "I think the complaint is that what you've proposed is a "non-commitment" commitment. "

I've answered the question the way I think it should be approached -- with objective, reliable, verifiable evidence, and a cascading set of probabilities; this objection seems like saying, "Well, I pulled a rabbit out of a hat, what's stopping you from believing that I can blot out the sun?" Um, the fact that there are a large number of claims made by most religions, and not very many of them lead ineluctably from one to the other.

Said another way, are you suggesting that a group of Muslims who seem to have effected an amputation regeneration (per my scenario above) would instantly persuade you about everything a Muslim says about Allah?

bmiller: "It appears from your answer that even if they all tested positive for high probability for the "God" hypothesis, you would still seek more "evidence". Am I right?"

What god hypothesis are we talking about? Mine were pretty small and specific. Is there a broader god hypothesis that you can offer that I'm missing, and if so, what is yours?

What do you mean by "tested positive for high probability?" (Test positive is usually considered a binary determination; high probability is considered, well, a probabilistic one. They are not the same.)



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